From The Desk Of Steve Wynn: Nina Simone’s “My Sweet Lord/Today Is A Killer”

Fifteen years after he scratched a lifelong itch and moved to New York City, Steve Wynn has settled in nicely to life on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The relocation also breathed fire into a music career that already had notched landmark albums by his first band, the Dream Syndicate, collaborations with Gutterball and a slew of excellent early solo releases. Once he turned 40, Wynn rolled up his sleeves and really went to work, cranking out masterpieces like 2001’s Here Come The Miracles and 2003’s Static Transmission. Wynn, wife/drummer Linda Pitmon, Peter Buck (R.E.M.) and Scott McCaughey (Minus 5) are set to begin a U.S. tour. Read our Q&A with Wynn. (Also read our 2001 Q&A with Wynn, conducted by novelist George Pelecanos, as well as our overview of the Dream Syndicate and its fellow Paisley Underground bands.)


Steve Wynn: I’m a big fan of Great Long Songs, and Nina Simone‘s version of “My Sweet Lord” is one of the best. My friend Tim Adams (of the Teenage Prayers) got me into this one, and I heard it for the first time driving outside of Philly (hi, MAGNET!) at 3 a.m. a few years ago. Like all Great Long Songs, you really need to give it your undivided attention to get the full effect. It won’t work properly if you’re reading a magazine, doing email or watching C-SPAN. Over the course of 18-plus minutes, Simone turns the George Harrison song on its head, taking it from a joyous gospel number to a harrowing searching of the soul that leaves you staggering from the whiplash of an emotional 180 in the final minutes. But that’s the beauty of these kinds of musical marathons. They take you on a trip and leave you changed at the end. (Other favorite Great Long Songs: “Highland” by Bob Dylan, “Sister Ray” by the Velvet Underground, “Frankie Teardrop” by Suicide, “Marquee Moon” or “Little Johnny Jewel” by Television, “The Diamond Sea” by Sonic Youth, “Mirror Man” by Captain Beefheart and “Fried Hockey Boogie” by Canned Heat.)

4 replies on “From The Desk Of Steve Wynn: Nina Simone’s “My Sweet Lord/Today Is A Killer””

Finally, a guest editor who can (and is willing to) write. Of course I already knew Steve’s a great writer, I am a fan of his excellent and storied career.

Nice list! Long songs. great idea. I would have included “Sun Symphonica” by Jan Dukes de Gray and Can’s “Bel Air,” but it’s a fine list without them.

You need to go back in the Guest Editor archives and check out some of the other ones. Scott McCaughy, Tommy Keene and John Davis are three examples of editors who wrote contributed great stuff that took a lot of time and effort.

Yeah, but see, it’s hard to remember them after the likes of Ace Frehley (who elevated the site with such high-minded interests such as motorcycles and cars, not to mention finding it fit to show off his own awful, misogynistic artwork) and Rhett Miller, who had all his famous friends do all the work for him.

Another great guest editor you could have mentioned, Jay B., was John Wesley Harding–although that’s no surprise since he’s one of the most literate songwriters going.

I’m with the Nina Simone Foundation and thank you for acknowledging her creative talents. It is great to see that she is yet a part of the conversation. It is one of our goals to keep that conversation going.

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