Please Read Me

Nina Simone was a Bee Gees fan, and interpreted no less than four of their songs in the late sixties. 

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Nina Simone first sang the Bee Gees on ‘Nuff Said, a live album recorded at the Westbury Music Fair (in upstate New York) on April 7, 1968. This was three days after the assassination of Martin Luther King, and Simone, who was especially intolerant of social injustice, was surely livid over his untimely death. 

The opener to her act, “In The Morning” is fairly sunny-  and is a fraud. The song was recorded in the studio with applause and an introduction added.  

“Please Read Me” is actually live and more plaintive-  it’s a truly pained call for  understanding. The Bee Gees original sounds like a cry for help from someone in a bit of a slump (lyrics: Maybe I’ve been lying on your couch too long/ I’ll stay if you will see me through/ Explain why/ Please read me), but Simone’s reading is a cry for her life-  Please read me, you bastards! This is another great example of Nina Simone taking a pop song with ambiguous lyrics and imbuing it with significance and weight.

In The Morning- Nina Simone

Please Read Me- Nina Simone

 

tolovesomebody

 

A year later, Nina recorded “To Love Somebody” and “I Can’t See Nobody.” I was surprised to find out that “To Love Somebody” was actually written by Gibb for Otis Redding, who died in a plane crash before recording it. Most Simone fans probably know these versions. 

To Love Somebody- Nina Simone

I Can’t See Nobody- Nina Simone

P.P. Arnold and Janis Joplin also did great versions of “To Love Somebody.” It really does seem like a song more fit for a female vocalist.

The versality of the song is really a testament to Barry Gibb as a songwriter. Don’t even get me started on the 70s or 80s. I once tried to play “Woman In Love” from the Barry Gibb & Barbra Streisand duet album Guilty for a very serious music nerd friend of mine, and it didn’t go down well. That record is a posting for another day, and I’l always stand by it as late-disco genius.

Here’s a video of Janis singing ‘To Love Somebody” live on Dick Cavett in July 18, 1969. 

And heres’s P.P. Arnold on a French teen dance show in 1968 with her rendition. 

5 responses to “Please Read Me

  1. Woman In Love isa terrible song, in my view. But then, it was overplayed to utter madness on German radio back in the day. But the title track of the Guilty album is an absolute gem. Especially the false start late into the song (“And we’ve got nothing…”).

    P.P. Arnold’s version of To Love Somebody is exquisite. All her cover versions on Kafunta are glorious.

  2. Great post, Bear.
    And aside from that, bless your heart for your appreciation of the Bee Gees.
    And one more thing: (regarding your anecdote about Woman in Love) here’s to sharing songs we love with other music people, and hoping they too see the genius, and when they don’t, still loving the song in spite of it all.

  3. I raise my glass to that, Libby. I try to honor all my tastes, cheesy and otherwise.

  4. Yeah, the PP Arnold version is great. The Joplin version is just awful. She doesn’t actually sing a single line of the song, each one being just an excuse for a lot of faux soul grandstanding. Love the drumming on Nina’s version.

  5. I’ll always contend that the Guilty album is genius. Most anything Barry Gibb touches sends me into an epileptic fit of happiness. I’m so glad you understand that, greatest Bear of all….

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