Famously, there are at least two distinctly American art forms: the Broadway Musical and, of course, Jazz--I also include The Blues in this short, proud, list, and rock and roll, which is white Blues.
It is not an accident that Jazz derives from the Black experience on this continent and the Musical from a specifically Jewish-American genius, evolving out of operetta, vaudeville, and music hall nonsense into its own real thing. These two American art forms--Jazz and Broadway--revolve around each other, nourishing each other, making each other even better, more beautiful, more feeling, more sophisticated, more complex. For at least half a century, Broadway music was popular music in the United States, and Jazz ran and ran with it.
Then we have Nina Simone.
In the hands of a true genius--a real American genius, like Simone--a little Broadway ditty becomes a threnody, an In Memoriam: You; In Memoriam: Love; In Memoriam: Me. No one makes this song speak the way she does and no one else can pull Death, so certainly, out of it in this way.
And so we continue our exploration of Jazz Appreciation Month and National Poetry Month.
I lost myself on a cool damp night.
Gave myself in that misty light.
Was hypnotized by strange delight
Under a lilac tree.
I made wine from the lilac tree.
Put my heart in its recipe.
It makes me see what I want to see,
Be what I want to be.
When I think more than I want to think,
Do things I never should do,
I drink much more than I ought to drink,
Because it brings me back you.
is sweet and heady,
Like my love.
I feel I'm steady,
like my love.
Listen to me.
I cannot see clearly.
Isn't that he,
coming to me,
Where's my love?
Listen to me,
why is everything
Isn't that he,
or am I going
for my love.