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(Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good,” 1965)
(Michael Bublé’s “Feeling Good,” 2005)

The first song that came to mind for this blog was “Feeling Good!” It was originally written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse for a musical called “The Roar of the Greasepaint — The Smell of the Crowd” and was first performed by Cy Grant in 1964 on the show’s UK tour. It would later be performed on Broadway by Gilbert Price the following year, but the recording that really made the song famous was Nina Simone’s version. Simone was a singer, songwriter, and civil rights activist who took the song and enhanced it to spread a message of the fight for freedom ever present during the 60s in America. Bublé is a singer, songwriter, and producer whose version of “Feeling Good” oozes a sensual appeal fit for a James Bond movie trailer.

The lyrics aren’t all too different, so what changes the meaning behind the words is how the performer decides to, well, perform it. Right at the very beginning (0:00), a big difference in their instrumentation can be picked up on. While Nina Simone starts off acapella, Bublé’s version has quiet strings backing his vocals that will later move into mezzo forte and into a crescendo (sforzando?) when he finishes the chorus. Another difference comes in a little later at (0:27), where Simone vocalizes/scats throughout the chorus before the band comes in to round the section out. Bublé, of course, does not do this in his version, opting to just get on with it. For similarities, the one I found the most fun was at (1:12, Simone’s ver.) and (1:26-7, Bublé’s ver.) The band pauses and takes a beat before coming back in and letting the trumpet/cornet have a tiny solo. We also have the crescendo in the voice at (2:05, Simone’s) and (2:49, Bublé’s) that put an emphasis on the word “freedom,” segueing into our final note.

The difference in not only the music’s setting, but in the time it was sung and the performer who made it happen changes the story up a lot. You hear the determination and urge to get to said promised freedom when you hear Simone, a black woman in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement, sing the song. You feel the urge to beat up some bad guys in a suit and blackout shades when you listen to Bublé’s version (and the music video made sure of that!) It all depends on how one carries themselves within the lyrics of this highly-portrayed song.

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May 2024

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