I will be presenting a paper at the IASPM Australia New Zealand Branch Conference at the Australian National University, Canberra, on 5 December. My paper is entitled ‘”All You See Is Glory”: The Burden of Stardom and the Tragedy of Nina Simone’ and the abstract is below.
Although most often remembered as an icon of the civil rights era, Nina Simone enjoyed (and occasionally endured) a long career during which the bulk of the songs she performed dealt with the politics, pains and precariousness of the self. Her work—always suffused with longing, sensuality and the passion of being—took on, in her later career, what might be termed a ‘defiant melancholy’ as she used her songs and live performances to navigate the burden of her past. As much as she had been a movement intellectual in the 1960s, Simone had been a star and the sense of loss of both political possibility (signalled by the ‘failure’ of the civil rights movement in the USA) and stardom (signalled by the decline in her popularity) flavoured much of the material she produced from the mid-1970s onwards.
In this paper, I explore Simone’s extraordinary performance at the 1976 Montreux Jazz Festival, and in particular her rendition of Janis Ian’s song ‘Stars’. I begin by reflecting on Ian’s own experience of celebrity and the way she articulated it in ‘Stars’, then I move on to compare Simone’s version, analysing it in the context of the festival appearance in which it appeared and in the longer text of Simone’s life as an artist and celebrity. Drawing on scholarship connected to celebrity, authorship and liveness, I read the song as exemplifying and challenging narratives of fame and artistic biography. I also reflect on cover versions as modes of authorship, authentication and experience and as live performance as an interface for stars and their audiences.
6 thoughts on “Upcoming presentation: ‘All You See Is Glory’: The Burden of Stardom and the Tragedy of Nina Simone”
I work with Janis Ian. We would very much appreciate a copy of your paper for our archives if possible. Kindly send to the address below, and thank you!
Hi Judy. Sure, I’d be happy to do that once I’m back in the UK and have had time to write t up. Could you confirm the address you’re referring to please? Would you like a hard copy or electronic?
Is it too late to ask for a copy of the paper?
Greg and Judy, I’ve now uploaded the transcript of the paper to this site (https://latevoice.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/elliott_2015_all_you_see_is_glory.pdf) and to my Academia.edu site (https://www.academia.edu/20214186/_All_You_See_Is_Glory_The_Burden_of_Stardom_and_the_Tragedy_of_Nina_Simone). This is the paper as I presented it in Canberra, with accompanying PowerPoint slides and links to musical examples, but minus on-the-spot extemporisations.
Thanks Richard. For your information I posted a link to your blog on my FB page. I am 67 and have been an admirer of both Nina and Janis from my formative years back in the day. I carried this interest into my career as a radio programme producer (ABC) and music researcher, The reason for posting was that a lot of my true friends are musicians and vocalists and whilst i also followed a visual arts stream, many in that field are also interested in both artists and the evolution of the protest movements and music. The response to referencing the blog has been excellent so I hope it has resulted in many contacting you? It has at the least created an awareness. I seek your permission to post the links to your transcript now so if you can get back to say that’s o.k.it would be appreciated. Civil rights, CND, Anti-Vietnam War and conscription were just some of the involvements of myself and my contemporaries in our nod to the 60’s. we as a group are still out there involving ourselves. May 2016 bring you the answers to some of your dreams. regards, Greg.
Thanks for your comments Greg. I’m happy for you to share the transcript and thanks for your interest. All the very best for 2016.