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…