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  • Writer's pictureSimon Rushby

Feeling Good by Nina Simone

Updated: Jan 29, 2021

#listeneveryday 2 Nov 2020

A new musical toured the UK in 1964 and played on Broadway, New York in 1965. It's name was The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd, and it featured a signature song called Feeling Good. The show ran for 200 or so performances before closing.

The writers of the show, Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse, went on to have stellar writing and performing careers, partly due to the success of Feeling Good even before the show had opened. Leading performers like sax icon John Coltrane and showman Sammy Davis Jr recorded it, and in 1965 Nina Simone made perhaps the definitive version.

Nina Simone in concert 1982 (pic: Roland Godefroy)

Simone's version used a raucous-sounding big band and had a heavy swing with powerful piano triplets. Her voice was laden with determination, spirit and desire and her stunning performance encapsulated for many the essence of the civil rights movement that was sweeping across America at the time. Her powerful message speaks to anyone and everyone who needs to find strength and power in adversity.

Something to do

There have been many versions of this song, most of which at least tip their hat to Nina Simone's performance. Try any or all of these and consider how they differ. Do they reflect the time they were recorded in, as Simone's does?

Muse released a powerful version on their 2001 album Origin of Symmetry, featuring an unforgettable performance from singer Matt Bellamy.

Michael Bublé has perhaps the most famous version after Simone, laden with big-band swing and suave delivery. He recorded it in 2005 and it was a big hit for him.

Rappers Kanye West and Jay Z sampled the song on their track New Day, released in 2011. This is altogether a darker and less celebratory interpretation.

Fugees singer Lauryn Hill recorded her take on the song for a tribute album to Simone in 2015. This version is a live one from 2018.

More to listen to

If you fancy some further listening, try these suggestions:

My Baby Just Cares for Me by Nina Simone (1961). This live performance from the Montreux Jazz Festival has to be seen to be believed.

Goldfinger - the title song of the 1964 Bond film, written by Bricusse and Newley and sung by Shirley Bassey.

Feeling Good - John Coltrane's captivating instrumental take on the song, from 1965.

A new #listeneveryday post is published every weekday! Comment below or tweet @SimonRushby with your suggestions for future music.

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