Liz Pahl spotlights Nina Simone, Lucy Dacus, and more in her year end suggested listening list

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It’s that time of year again! WOUB Culture has reached out to a variety of folks involved in various capacities with the music and arts throughout WOUB’s diverse coverage region to inquire: “what have you been listening to this year, my friend?” Find their answers on WOUB Culture all throughout the month of December. 

Liz Pahl

WOUB End of Year Playlist- Suggested Listening/Watching

The year 2021 has been intense to say the least. The previous year brought us a deadly pandemic, shut-downs, an extremely stressful political landscape, Black and Indigenous lives wrongfully taken from the earth, peaceful protests encountered by violence and more. The year 2021 brought us hope in the form of vaccines and a newly elected President. Then a insurrection occurred, and well, you were all there for that.

A huge solace to the unknowns of 2021 has been my family’s love, and living in such a fantastic community. I am grateful for my family’s health, and the compassion and care that our extended community in Athens has shown each other during unprecedented times. I can best describe the entirety of 2021 as a roller coaster of extreme highs and extreme lows.

Immersing myself in music and film has been both an effective coping mechanism and an inspirational tool to allow me to keep creating and practicing art in uncertain times. Here are my top four art experiences that captivated me this year.

1. Nina Simone – “Nina Simone in Concert” (1964) & “I Put A Spell On You” (1965)

The High Priestess of Soul needs no introduction. However, these are two essential listens to get into genius Nina Simone’s oeuvre. Every inflection of Nina Simone’s voice embodies the life force of joy, pain and anger. She intentionally used her platform to draw attention to race discrimination and the Civil Rights Movement, regardless of how it affected her record sales at the time. “Mississippi Goddamn” was written in response to the 1963 church bombing that took place in Alabama, and “Old Jim Crow” denounced hateful Jim Crow laws. Simone’s powerful voice gives me hope and strength. Simone’s versions of “I Put a Spell On You” and “Feeling Good” had hundreds of plays in my world this year.

I highly recommend watching Liz Garbus’ award winning 2015 documentary “What Happened, Miss Simone” and read this piece ( by Ohio’s own MacArthur Genius Hanif Aburraqib.

2. Lucy Dacus – “Home Video” (2021)

Shamefully, I had never listened to Lucy until my good friend Kelly Cooke said I needed to. “Home Video” is an album dedicated to coming of age. The first listen was a little too spot on. I didn’t enjoy re-living feelings some of these songs rustled up. But yet, I wanted to listen to them again. And again. Dacus’ songwriting is specifically autobiographical, yet so universal. “Hot & Heavy,” “First Time” and “VBS” are my three favorites, all synonymous with “growing up”.

I recommend listening to Lucy break down her song “Thumbs” on Song Exploder ( TW: It is a heavy topic, but a beautiful breakdown.

3. “The Last Black Man in San Fransisco Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” (2019)

This is by far, one my favorite films of the last 10 years. Written by Joe Talbot and Jimmy Fails, the film stars Fails as a man obsessed with trying to reclaim a home that his grandfather built. It is a film about place, friendship and moving towards discovering a sense of belonging. Actor Jonathan Majors delivers an exquisite performance. You truly can’t take your eyes off of Majors when he’s on screen. The soundtrack is scored by composer Emile Mosseri (“Kajillionaire” 2021, “Minari” 2020). I’ve watched the film many times. So now, when I listen to the soundtrack my heart aches remembering details of each scene; true indications of both an incredibly written movie and score. The rendition of “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” alone, is worth the price of admission.

4. “Legacy: Women of Southeast Ohio” (2021)

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a documentary film project that Andie Walla and I have worked on for the past four years, which premiered in August 2021 at Stuart’s Opera House.

“Legacy: Women of Southeast Ohio” is documentary film series, that highlights the incredible accomplishments of four Southeastern Ohio women who have dedicated their lives to community action, activism, teaching and social justice.

The documentary films showcase the lives of four incredible women: Ada Woodson Adams, Former President of the Multicultural Genealogical Center in Chesterhill, Ohio, an organization that documents, preserves and shares the stories of Black, Native American and other underrepresented Americans in our region; Dr. Francine Childs, Professor Emerita, first Black Full Professor and the first and only woman to chair the Department of African Studies at Ohio University; Dr. Dru Riley Evarts, Professor Emerita and first woman tenured in the Ohio University Journalism School, and Carol Kuhre, Fiber Artist and founder/former Executive Director of the grassroots community organization advocating for issues around social, environmental and economic justice: Rural Action.

I wish I could bottle up all of the love and respect that was shown to these four women that night at Stuart’s Opera House. It was an unforgettable evening.

You can watch all four films here:

A recommended listening: a talk with Emily Votaw. (