Nina Simone: “To Love Somebody”
Here we are again, another Cover Friday — only the third so far, but what the heck, let’s call it a hat trick. This week I’m featuring a cover that I only recently discovered myself. I was very familiar with the Bee Gees’ early hit, “To Love Somebody,” and have a couple of Nina Simone albums, but it wasn’t until I watched the movie, I Love You Phillip Morris, recently that I came across Simone’s version of that song. As it turns out, I couldn’t even place at first that it was Simone when I heard it. She has such a deep voice that I actually was trying to think of what male soul singer it might be, but just couldn’t place that voice. It was only when I read the credits that I figured out it was her, and then of course it clicked and I could hear it.
Simone, known as much for her jazz singing as for her soul, gospel, and pop work (although separating them off like that is a bit misleading, as she often blended the different genres within albums, and within songs), released her version of “To Love Somebody” on her 1969 album, To Love Somebody (clearly she — or someone at the record company — was pretty pleased with the results of recording this song as well). She takes the Bee Gees’ song and makes it groove more than they had it in them at that time to do — I find qualities in it that would have allowed it to fit comfortably on the The Harder They Come soundtrack without seeming out of place, despite not having a reggae beat (it may be because she bears a slight vocal resemblance to Desmond Dekker). Although I like the Bee Gees version as well, Simone makes their original sound almost stilted — her version ebbs and flows and adds an intimacy, missing from the original, to the dramatic sweep of the song. It sounds like a great lost track from the Stax recording studios — and I’m glad to have found it.