Coincidence or likely story, three of the great freedom singers of our time, Yoko Ono, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Nina Simone were born on nearly consecutive days in February.
Yoko Ono is of course a conceptual artist, a recording artist, a peace activist, wife of the late John Lennon and mother of Sean Ono Lennon. Born on February 18 in Tokyo, at 84, Ono remains a working artist and advocate for peace and human rights.
Born on February 20, 1941, Buffy Sainte-Marie turns 76 this year. She is still a vital recording and touring artist, fronting a band, and waging peace and freedom, particularly for the First Nations people of North America.
Though she passed on in 2003 at the age of 70, North Carolinian and world citizen Nina Simone continues to win over listeners with her unique vocal and composition style and revolution rhetoric that truly remains unmatched since her prolific ’60s and ’70s period. Though she adapted her songbook as times changed, Simone kept it fierce and strong until breast cancer took her off the road in her 60s. She would have turned 84 on February 22.
All three women hold unique distinctions as pioneering vocal stylists and composers of depth and substance—pro-woman, anti-war and anti-racist—which found them as revered as they are reviled. Yet those of us who appreciate the work, who lived in times that crossed with theirs, who were lucky enough to have seen them perform or simply feel the enormity of their contributions to the modern music canon shall pause, listen, and give thanks in the coming days that these three extraordinary 20th Century women were born.
Read more on Ono, Sainte-Marie and Simone in Keep on Pushing: Black Power Music From Blues to Hip Hop.