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Nina Simone "Mississippi Goddam (Live at Newport 1966)"

Entered in Long Form Video


In 2023, Verve Records proudly presented “Happy Birthday, Miss Simone,” a yearlong, multi-format celebration for what would have been the legendary artist’s 90th birthday.    
The campaign’s centerpiece was the album release “You’ve Got To Learn,” a newly-discovered recording of Simone’s legendary performance at the 1966 Newport Jazz Festival. Captured at the height of the civil rights movement, Simone adapted the lyrics of “Mississippi Goddam,” her signature protest anthem, to reference the Watts, CA riots that had erupted the previous year. Simone appeared at Newport days after celebrating a 220-mile protest march.
Simone’s profile has risen dramatically in the past decade, recognized by a new generation as an icon of social justice. Our goal for the project was to pay respect to this critical aspect of her legacy with a creative that was an homage to the protest movements of the 1960s while connecting it to the present day. Like Simone herself, to entertain while also being unflinchingly honest.


The official music video for "Mississippi Goddamn (Live at Newport 1966)" was inspired by the graphic diversity of protest signs from the civil rights movement to Black Lives Matter, capturing the same urgency and anger that led Simone to write the original composition in less than an hour. "[The song] erupted out of me faster than I could write it down," she said. "The truth entered into me and I 'came through'." 
For this project, we drew inspiration from both the civil rights movement and BLM's do-it-yourself typography and graphic means of communicating, community building, and organizing. Protest signs and placards from both eras were used as inspiration. The extreme gravity of the experience of racism, discrimination, segregation, anti-communist policies, and assassinations are suggested through radical takes on typography and imagery. The song's lyrics unfold over different mediums and frames, highlighting the political context of the composition while updating it for today's setting. Sharp contrasts, distressed textures, imperfections, and bold shapes were chosen to emphasize Simone's electrifying live version of the song.
The complete lyrics to "Mississippi Goddam" were animated by Paris-based director and illustrator Nevil Bernard. Using a mixture of kinetic typography, illustration, and digital hand-drawn lettering, it follows the rhythm of Simone's vocals and her trio's remarkable live performance. Other symbols of protest and participation - placards and pasteboards, campaign pins, and posters - help illustrate how Simone's iconic protest anthem is regrettably still relevant today.


Once the creative concept for the “Mississippi Goddam” video was established, it was extended to the “You’ve Got To Learn” album release strategy overall. Digital, print and out-of-home advertising was designed to resemble 1960s placards, extending the project’s motifs. As a live album released at the peak of summer festival season, its promotion was eventized, with release date treated as a not-to-be-missed Nina Simone performance. Poster lithographs inspired by the video typography were distributed to Black-owned independent music retailers. As the visual calling card for the album, “Mississippi Goddam”  helped make possible extraordinary press coverage for the project, including The New York Times, NPR and Associated Press.


Video for Nina Simone "Mississippi Goddam (Live at Newport 1966)"

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