Stephen Marley is set to release ‘Celebrating Nina: A Reggae Tribute to Nina Simone’. The seven track EP features as many female artists revisiting songs written or previously covered by Simone, with exquisitely crafted one-drop reggae rhythms further embellishing Simone’s category-defying sonics.
“Seven is a significant number to me and my brothers because Bob had seven sons,” explained Stephen, the youngest child of Rita and Bob Marley, in an interview with Billboard.
“This project is about preserving Nina Simone’s legacy, passing it on to younger generations, including my children, because you don’t often find music this substantial. When we started the project, we reached out to Nina’s daughter (Lisa Simone Kelly) and to the Nina Simone Foundation to establish a connection; we want to donate a portion of the proceeds to the things that she was all about.”
Simone, who survived an abusive marriage, battled alcoholism and suffered for years with an undiagnosed bipolar disorder, succumbed to breast cancer on April 21, 2003; in her will, she requested her estate’s residuary gifts be held in trust to create a charity supporting the musical education of Black children in Africa.
‘Celebrating Nina: A Reggae Tribute to Nina Simone’ will be released March 18 on the Marley family’s Ghetto Youths International imprint. The first single, “Four Women,” by Jamaica’s Queen Ifrica, dropped on April 26, 2021, the 52nd anniversary of the recording of the 1969 album Nina Simone Live At Berkeley.
Simone wrote “Four Women” in 1965 about a quartet of Black females, each rejecting the stereotypes imposed upon them and seeking their own self-definition; Queen Ifrica’s expression of righteous indignation captures Simone’s intent.
Marley began working on the Nina Simone tribute EP over five years ago, motivated by his admiration for her musical genius.
“Music from the past, artists like Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, speak to my mood, my soul. Because of the racism they faced years ago, you can hear the commitment they had towards pursuing their talent and the passion they put into their music, which remains very potent today,” Marley said in a statement.
Simone’s activism is something Marley would like to see more of from this generation. “The world is upside down right now and if more people spoke out directly like Nina Simone did, I think we’d be in a different situation. From her performances to her lyrics to her activist personality, Nina Simone is one of a kind and her spirit lives on