As the anti-Trump compilation series Our First 100 Days rolls along, the latest entry in the campaign is a cover of Nina Simone’s civil rights tune “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free.”
Courtney Marie Andrews and Bonnie “Prince” Billy (who always seems to be working and releasing new music) teamed up for the gospel-heavy take that’s most certainly sanctified. Andrews and Billy (aka Will Oldham) croon in their brightest voices about breaking free from life’s chains and “starting anew” as warm organ is piped in and drums steadily tap along. It’s jazzy, it’s folksy, it’s deeply spiritual and an ideal salve for the presently weary.
Andrews said of the song in a statement:
“I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” is an amazing gospel tune that the incomparable Nina Simone covered and it became an important song for the civil rights movement in the ‘60s. A lot of these issues are still relevant today and I wanted to sing a song that had a palpable voice for those issues. I’ll never know what it was like to walk the rocky path that Nina did, but her power and unyielding strength was and is something to aspire to.
“We figured to make a song that would keep folks’ minds, tongues & fingers in motion,” explained Billy in a statement of his own. “James Baldwin: ‘This is not the land of the free. It is only very unwillingly & sporadically the home of the brave.’”
You can hear “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free” below now, and find Nina Simone’s original take (plus Paste Cloud audio from both Andrews and Billy) further down. Check out the entire Our First 100 Days series, which is “raising funds for organizations working on the front lines of climate, women’s rights, immigration and fairness,” on their Bandcamp page.