I had the pleasure of viewing the new Netflix documentary entitled, What Happened, Miss Simone? The film chronicles the life and career of Eunice Waymon, most affectionately known to the world as Miss Nina Simone. As I watched the documentary unfold the life of Miss Simone, I could not help but think of how, in years to come, this could easily become the chronicled life of my favorite artist, Miss Lauryn Hill.
Miss Hill, like Miss Simone, a multi-talented mastermind, both blessed and cursed with the gift of genius, is a mystery to the media but remains “L-Boogie” to adoring fans patiently awaiting the re-entry of her much-needed artistry into the mainstream. Just as Miss Simone found her identity in protest music in the 1960’s, Miss Hill recent contributions are drenched in commitment to exposing the perils of the music industry; turning its seemingly brilliant white stronghold inside out to unveil the demonic plot of society to keep its inhabitants blind and eradicate any inkling of foresight or conscious thought. Her posture, transparent; her objective, opaque.
Miss Simone sings, “please don’t let me be misunderstood,” while Miss Hill insists that “when they think you’re crazy, they leave you alone.” I’m left to wonder if it is indeed the demands of the industry, the demons within the industry or the genius itself that is responsible for what caused Miss Simone and Miss Hill to retreat from society into psychological states of mental unrest.
The conundrum is in the very gift of artistic brilliance…the source of sanity and insanity, concurrently. Proverbs 18:16 teaches believers that “A person’s gift shall make room for him and bring him before great men.” The gift, the art, the passion that the world fell in love with is what both beauties abandoned in an attempt to escape the bondage that accompanied it. The relationship is the archetypal scenario of the abusive lover; can’t live with him, can’t live without him…him being “the gift.”
I wonder what Miss Hill’s thoughts are about Miss Simone’s documentary. I wonder if the “mad scientist” analogy she implored on her MTV Unplugged album is what was eventually diagnosed in Miss Simone as manic depression and bipolar disorder. I wonder because I share Ms. Hill’s sentiment about the industry…but I also believe that there is joy in abundant life. Likewise, as a believer, I am sure she is keenly aware of this.
Like most fans, I have paid for tickets to see Miss Hill live in concert on numerous occasions and left overwhelmingly unfulfilled. I’ve since stopped paying to see her and started praying to see her. I am praying to see past the maturation process that she is currently undergoing. I am praying that though it appears that she is undoubtedly drifting down “has been” boulevard, things are not what they seem and God can and will change the direction of the wind and direct her to where He would have her tread, at any moment. I find comfort in Miss Hill deciding to no longer conform to the ways of this world. Though I believe that her wisdom, cloaked in music, is desperately needed in today’s society, I stand first in empathy, knowing that Miss Hill’s story is not finished just yet.