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Album: Pastel BluesReleased: 1965
Clocking in at over ten minutes, Simone's version of this African-American traditional spiritual song is an outpouring of intense emotion, possibly tied to her own religious beliefs or her political fervor in the battle for civil rights (condemning her own sins or condemning society's). It is featured on her 1965 album Pastel Blues.
This song was inspired by the Book of Exodus, where Moses leads a group of people out of Egypt only to be punished by a series of plagues when they are not truly repentant for their sins. The story is also told in Psalm 78.
Simone learned this song way back when she was known as Eunice Waymon, a young girl known for her piano skills at her mother's church. This song was often used at revivals and prayer meetings to bring sinners to the altar. "Some of my most fantastic experiences - experiences that really shake me, now that I think of them - happened in the church when we'd have these revival meetings. I'd be playiNnNnNnNnNng, boy! I'd really be playing. I loved it! Folks would be shoutin' all over the place. Now that's my background!" she told Ebony in 1969.
In the UK, the instrumental middle of this song is used on a advert for Renaut cars. In 2005 the BBC used it on the trailers for the series Judge John Deed. (thanks, Kazryn - Potters Bar, England)
Nina Simone's estate sued HTC after it used the Felix da Housecat remix of this song in a commercial, allegedly without permission. The singer's heirs claimed that the smartphone manufacturer failed to obtain the rights to use the track for their "You Are Different" advertising campaign.
This was sampled in Talib Kweli's 2003 single "Get By
" and in Timbaland's "Oh Timbaland" from his 2007 album, Shock Value
This has been featured on several TV shows, including Homicide: Life on the Street, Scrubs, Entourage, The Blacklist and Person of Interest. It also appears in the movie The Thomas Crown Affair, where it plays throughout a scene where Pierce Brosnan is stealing a painting from a museum.