Nina Simone's Gum: A Memoir of Things Lost and Found

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Nina Simone's Gum: A Memoir of Things Lost and Found

Nina Simone's Gum: A Memoir of Things Lost and Found

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You don't need to know anything about music (or exhibitions) to marvel at the account of how lovingly and professionally they set about preparing suitable conditions for the display of a fingertip-sized piece of chewing gum. The pair met in 1993 and have been through a lot together since, including coming off heroin at around the same time – “I don’t talk about it,” says Ellis, “because it’s the least interesting aspect of anything about my life.

That’s why the book was such an interesting read for me – on one level, it’s a metaphor for the creative process, but it’s also a deep insight into his inner life told through the obsession he has with the chewing gum. The love and devotion surrounding Doctor Nina Simone's piece of gum that Ellis appropriated and took care of for twenty years is beyond words. Of course he did, it had been lying around safely with the other trivia that marked his life, busking across Europe, playing with Nick Cave's bands, writing film scores and playing concerts with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

All I have seen the gum do is bring out love and care in the people who have come in contact with it,” Ellis tells me, sounding quite emotional. In a way which perhaps allows everyone to experience a little bit of the wonder which it brought the guy who had guarded it for two decades. She then began a performance that Ellis describes as “transformative” – both for her and the audience.

Nina Simone’s Gum reveals how something seemingly insignificant and disposable can form beautiful connections between people. Arguably the most important teacher he pays tribute to is Mick Geyer, the guy who introduced him both to the music of Nina Simone at a time when “you couldn’t just look up ‘Nina Simone live in ’69’ on YouTube” and to Nick Cave in person in 1994, a meeting that would change both musicians’ lives. What the gum symbolises and the meaning behind what great performers and artists give to people - the transcendence of music in our lives - is what this wonderful book is all about.

Probably if you read the book you'll think that's not that weird either, it's just that kind of book. I walked into English reading this and my teacher said 'oh cool, I love Nina Simone' and I replied that it's not really about Nina Simone it's more about hero worship, this guy from Nick Cave's band stole her used gum off her piano and got it cast in silver and put in a museum. In 1999, four years before her death at age 70, Eunice Kathleen Waymon — better known as Nina Simone — gave a performance at the Nick Cave–curated Meltdown Festival in London.

It is a celebration of the artistic process and the incomparable power of the art born from it – of friendship, understanding and love. With his blessing, the Belgian fashion designer Ann Demeulemeester produced an intricately carved silver ring in its image and, in September, her sculpture of the gum will be exhibited in Waterstones, Piccadilly, to mark the book’s publication. Dominik, who filmed One More Time With Feeling in 2016, about the making of Cave’s album Skeleton Tree, is currently in London finishing a new a film based around Cave and Ellis performing songs from Carnage and Ghosteen. Well, that was definitely not my original intention,” he says, “but weirdly it turned into a kind of fractured memoir.It has been exhibited behind reinforced glass in a display case as part of Stranger Than Kindness, an exhibition in Copenhagen earlier this year, which traced Nick Cave’s career. Should you donate to Ellis Park, the sanctuary for abused victims of animal smuggling that Warren helped create? The book starts with the 1999 Meltdown Festival in London, “a typical Meltdown evening of genius and barely contained chaos” and Nick Cave, the curator of the Festival had introduced Nina Simone, “the troublemaker and risk taker who taught us everything we needed to know about the nature of artistic disobedience.

The universe will guide you and these objects of intense meaning into your life and sometimes they are for you, and sometimes they are for the world. On one hand, it’s just a piece of gum, but on the other hand it’s the fuck-you power of a titan in her waning years, pulling out all the stops despite everything. It shows how the world is full of magic, of possibilities, not just by music and expression, but by the symbolism that we can place in something, and make it become important.Ellis includes seven of them, one after another, each powerful on its own but gaining in poignancy as they accumulate. Warren Ellis is an Australian multi-instrumentalist and composer, most famous for his work as collaborator and bandmate of Nick Cave, in both the Bad Seeds and Grinderman. Nina Simone’s Gum will be available as a slipcased, numbered and signed, fine-bound limited edition featuring a hand-sewn art pamphlet.



  • Fruugo ID: 258392218-563234582
  • EAN: 764486781913
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