Zarathustra vs Nina Simone

Thus Spoke Zarathustra – First Part – Prologue 1
vs “Feeling Good”, Nina Simone (I Put a Spell on You, 1965)

A song of affirmation – no doubt – ‘Sun in the sky, you know how I feel,’ sings Simone, ‘It's a new dawn / It's a new day / It's a new life / For me.’ Yet this bruised voice appears naked within a mise-en-scene of silence, shaded in sadness, speaking of loss and aware of an endless confrontation to come. Simone’s “Feeling Good” captures up the mood of the opening passage of Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

Zarathustra emerges from his mountain cave into the first light of dawn. ‘Greetings, Great Star!’ he calls to the sun. This is no encounter with an object of worship – no god – no surrogate of a god, no embodiment of an ideal form. The sun is a star – one of the billions in the universe. This is the natural world in the wake of science; yet in no way exhausted by science, opening up immediately into metaphor: ‘you would have grown weary of your light, and of this course without me.’ And such is the role Zarathustra must adopt. For ten years he has ‘enjoyed his spirit and his solitude,’ but in his fortieth year he suffers ‘a change of heart.’ ‘Overburdened’ with hard-won ‘wisdom,’ he will return to the world to ‘bestow and distribute’ his understanding to the people, ‘hands outstretched to receive it.’ (As if…).

When the dirty brass section and jazz piano kick in, they give us a descending run of chords, echoing Zarathustra’s descent ‘into the depths’ of the world, a journey to the ‘underworld.’ ‘Oh freedom is mine / And I know how I feel’, and ‘this old world is a new world / And a bold world / For me.’ At the end of the song Simone roars ‘I’m feeling good,’ a battle-cry for the war to come. ‘Thus began Zarathustra’s going-under.’

First Part: Prologue 2 - Julian Cope