Story Feature: Eunice Townsend
I was introduced to the amazing talent of Nina Simone by a jazz disc jockey named Symphony Sid. I was 12 years old at the time and in awe of the places jazz music could take you. “I Loves You Porgy” was a strong, sad, unforgettable cry for help. I somehow felt the intensity of the love Nina was singing about in that song and wanted desperately to see her on stage.
That didn’t happen until much later when I had the opportunity to go to Carnegie Hall, where she was performing. Even now as I recall the event, I feel the same chill of excitement I felt then. A young black woman going to Carnegie Hall to see Nina Simone, I was in a place where the world was perfect.
My first trip to Carnegie Hall was nothing less than spiritual. It was beautiful, large, and welcoming—and it was where Nina Simone was going to perform any number of songs. The seats were plush and the ushers were helpful in directing my friend and me to our seats. We felt sophisticated, like we belonged there (and I’ve never stopped having that feeling whenever I visit). Finally, Nina Simone arrived on stage—the buildup was tantalizing and I was almost emotionally worn out even before she appeared. But I was filled with joy for seeing this genius, joy for being seated in the most beautiful hall I’d ever been in, joy for understanding her pain, and joy for being fully alive in Carnegie Hall.