In Indio, CA on Saturday night, Beyoncé took a minute during her historical moment as the first Black female headliner of Coachella to pay tribute to a pioneer who came before her, the great Nina Simone. Her timing was perfect: on the night that Simone was finally getting her moment to shine as an inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. That, too, involved an earth-shaking performance by another legend, Lauryn Hil l. Or so we hear; in the era of livestreamed everything, the Rock Hall is almost quaint in its insistence on taping its induction ceremony to air later (May 5) on HBO. But the reports, highlight clips, and a few Twitter and Instagram videos coming out of the Public Auditorium were enough to give us secondhand chills.
"Her voice was so distinctive and warm and powerful, I never heard anything like it," Mary J. Blige as she inducted Nina Simone, the singer dubbed the High Priestess of Soul but whose music spanned so many more genres, into the hall. When Simone's brother, Sam Waymon, accepted the long overdue trophy for his sister, who died in 2003, he was reportedly given a time limit for his speech, but went over it, knowing she deserved much more than the three minutes the Rock Hall allegedly allotted.
Yes, her voice was distinctive — you can often identify it with just one note — but there were two women on the stage Sunday night who used their own distinct voices to honor her. Backed by The Roots and buoyed by an impressive beehive of hair, Andra Day sang Simone's versions of "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free" and "I Put a Spell On You," according to Cleveland.com.