FORGET WOODSTOCK, PART ONE: "ARE YOU READY, BLACK PEOPLE?"—NINA SIMONE's all-time knockout performance at the Harlem Festival, 1969

Following are five YouTube clips which appear to form the whole of NINA SIMONE’s blazing knockout masterpiece set at HARLEM FESTIVAL ’69.

Other performers at the Harlem Festival—six free weekend, outdoor concerts held at the Harlem end of Central Park in the summer of 1969—included Stevie Wonder, the Staples Singers, Sly and the Family Stone (click here to watch on YouTube), B.B. King, Mahalia Jackson, The Chambers Brothers, Dizzy Gillespie, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Max Roach…the list goes on and on. It’s a host of magnificent artists, many at the peak of their powers, playing to a predominately black audience at a super-charged, awful-yet-hopeful moment in American history.

Makes you wonder: Why do we all know about Woodstock, but not about Harlem, which took place the same year?

After all, all of the performances were filmed by a professional crew led by director Hal Tulchin. But aside from four songs from Simone’s set, released in fall 2005 on a little-noticed dual-disk entitled The Soul of Nina Simone, which Arthur’s pseudonymous reviewers C & D went apeshit for way back in Arthur No. 20, none of this footage has ever been made commercially available in the United States.

Which is sad. Watch Simone’s remarkable, incendiary heart-soul-voice performance, especially the stunning “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” and the closing “Are You Ready, Black People?” and you’ll see why…

Categories: BLOG | Tags: , , , , , , | 16 Comments

About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2023: I publish an email newsletter called LANDLINE = Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca.

16 thoughts on “FORGET WOODSTOCK, PART ONE: "ARE YOU READY, BLACK PEOPLE?"—NINA SIMONE's all-time knockout performance at the Harlem Festival, 1969

  1. Amen!
    Seems like that Smithsonian piece ends on a weird anti-accessibility note, considering the archivist source.


  3. Pingback: FORGET WOODSTOCK, PART TWO: SLY & THE FAMILY STONE at HARLEM FESTIVAL 1969 - professionally filmed, yet never commercially released | ARTHUR MAGAZINE - WE FOUND THE OTHERS

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  8. Thank God there was somebody as you that took the trouble to save such a masterpiece. if you have this for sale Pls. e-mail me. I hope that the number=just say I love him- would be included.


  9. Please get the info re: how to get these recordings in whatever form they exist. The entire Harlem Festival represents other festivals we dont have recordings of that were the creativity of the Black Power Movement and the evolution of R&B and Soul. Let us know how we can support this movement to make a documentary history of this historical concert. Bless you for sharing.

  10. Pingback: Nina Simone – Revolution | I WANT CRAYONS. 2012

  11. Pingback: Nina Simone: To Be Free: The Nina Simone Story » CULTurMAG

  12. Pingback: Nina Simone at the 1969 Harlem Festival | Harlem Arts Festival

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