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I put a spell on you – the book

Book cover - Nina Simone

A book for Christmas? A fascinating real life story of a mega star, Nina Simone.

Book cover - Nina Simone

Nina Simone was a remarkable pianist and one of the great singers of the 20th century with a strikingly unique voice and presentation which could be powerful or tender or bitter, but always captivating.

I recently discovered that she had written an autobiography which is not surprisingly, entitled  I put a spell on you.

What lay behind that impression of great inner strength?
Like many people I have always been curious about the real life, behind the scenes, experience, of world famous people.. To the world, to you and me, they may have always looked supremely confident and capable. This biography reveals her complex and troubled character.

Poor beginnings?
It had always been my impression that Nina Simone grew up in poor circumstances, but that is an oversimplification.

She was the sixth of eight children. Her father had been a working man who had become a successful businessman and, at one time owned three businesses  –   a dry cleaning business, a barbers shop, a road hauliers business, For a few years the family had lived in a big house  with a very large garden. They had their own tennis court, but at the time Nina was born the family had hit really bad times. 
The Great Depression caused all three of her father’s businesses to collapse. They moved to a smaller house. The house burned down. Her father became seriously ill and had a major operation which put him out of work for several years. This was the time of great poverty for the family,  the time of Nina’s early childhood.

As a result of this they had to move to a small community living in shacks in the woods. Nina’s family made their shack into a superior one by building on a bathroom. Without toilet facilities their neighbours just had to use the woods.. 

Musical family  –  talent plus incredible hard work
Both of Nina’s parents played the piano as did all her brothers and sisters. When Nina was only a toddler she was impressing everybody with her ability to play the piano. She stood out even in her talented family.

She developed an ambition to become a  classical concert pianist. Added to her natural talent was a real passion for playing the piano which resulted in her practicing five hours a day in her late teenage years.

She studied classical piano in New York and Philadelphia and auditioned for one of the top classical music colleges in the US, The Curtis Institute of Music. She failed the audition and was devastated. Everyone told her, and she was personally convinced, the reason she failed was because she was black. For a time she decided to give up music altogether.

Nina Simone was very angry about racism in the US all her life and was very active in the Civil Rights Movement appearing on platforms speaking and singing alongside Martin Luther King.

Mixing marriage and stage career
She married twice, the first time for two years and the second time for 10 years. Her second marriage was to Andy Stroud who was also her manager. Towards the end of the 10 years Nina was feeling that Andy was very much more her manager than her husband and she needed rest and reassurance rather than a relentless programme of performing around the world. 

Bad with audiences
Nina Simone had a reputation for not always giving her best to her audiences and sometimes being very bad tempered with them. I took our family to see Nina perform at The Dome in Brighton, I think in the year 1990. There was a support act which was a bit lacklustre and it performed for a very long time. 

We were beginning to get the impression we would never see Nina Simone, but eventually she appeared on stage and performed a very short set. Then it became clear that that was it and she walked off the stage followed by her musicians. The audience shouted for more but she never returned.

Her autobiography gives some clue as to what might have been going on in her mind. Talking about the end of her marriage many years before the Dome appearance She wrote  “ We went on as before, touring, arguing and making up, never getting once close to the real issues. We just pushed on blindly until every so often my nervous exhaustion would force a crisis and I’d be late on stage or give a bad performance. Then we’d rest up just long enough for me to recover before starting up again.  I guess I wanted more from Andy than he was prepared to give.” 

Then comes a tragic insight into her personal feelings and experience as a top entertainer. “What I needed most was something that few men I have ever known have been able to give me, a sense of peace. My whole life had been full of doubt and insecurity, and I was never confident about what I was doing. I’d lie awake nights worrying about complicated musical arrangements, whether or not we’d make the plane the next morning, if I was still attractive to men, anything and everything. All I really needed was someone to pull on my hand and say, ‘ You’re ok Nina. Leave yourself alone.’ Andy wasn’t the sort of man to do that, never had been.” 

She went on to have many affairs around the world. Some of them were happy others were deeply frustrating or disappointing. She had an affair with a hotel porter in Barbados and a long affair with the prime minister of Barbados. 

Final years
She spent her final years living in France..

Nina Simone performed in Britain on many occasions, especially at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London,  also the Royal Festival Hall,  the  Barbican Centre and venues in Liverpool, Glasgow and Brighton. Her last performance was in Poland.

For the years 2002 and 2003 she was booked to do several gigs in England, but she was dying of breast cancer and the gigs were cancelled. 

Three days before her death the Curtis  Institute of Music awarded her a doctorate in music all those years after they had rejected her. She died in the south of France on 21 April 2003 at the age of seventy.

I put a spell on you  –  the autobiography of Nina Simone. Published by Da Capo Press in the US. Available in the UK.

Nina Simone Pensive
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Jazz Breakfast at Sussex Yacht Club

Jazz at Sussex Yacht Club 8 October 2023
Jazz at Sussex Yacht Club 8 October 2023

First of a new series of Mike Hatchard’s Jazz Breakfasts, 8 October 2023.

This featured piano maestro, Mike Hatchard and leading UK saxophonist, Alan Barnes, with Bobby Worth on drums and Nigel Thomas on bass.

Mike Hatchard and Alan Barnes

Mike Hatchard and Alan Barnes

Riverside balcony, Sussex Yacht Club.

Some members of the audience relax on the riverside balcony during the interval at Mike Hatchard’s Jazz Breakfast.

Next Jazz Breakfast, Sunday 5 November, 11 am. Features Julie Roberts, vocals, Nils Solberg, guitar, Harry Whitty, trombone, Oz Dechaine, bass . . . 

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Jazz Breakfast in Shoreham-by-Sea, UK

Poster announces Mike Hatchard's Jazz Breakfast

Jazz Breakfast in Shoreham-by-Sea, UK

Poster announces Mike Hatchard's Jazz Breakfast

Mike Hatchard’s new season  of Jazz Breakfasts is at a new, splendid venue, the Sussex Yacht Club with views down the river, a licensed bar and restaurant.
Each month Mike will have a special guest. After the launch of the series the plan is to keep to the first Sunday of each month.

  • October 8th   Special guest the outstanding UK saxophonist, Alan Barnes.
  • November 5th   The legendary Sarah-Jane Morris, ex-Communards’ singer with a truly international reputation.
  • December 3rd   Amazing vocalist, Julie Roberts and top brass player (to be confirmed. Watch this space.)

    TICKETS from 
    or phone the yacht club UK 01273 453 717

Sussex Yacht Club

Sussex Yacht Club seen from The Millennium Footbridge, Shoreham-by-Sea, UK

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Guitarist Returns to EU

Paul Roberts, guitarist with dog Roxy.
Paul Roberts, guitarist with dog Roxy.

Our son Paul set off at dawn last Wednesday on a long journey busking across Europe with his dog Roxy. For most of the last 20 years Paul has made his living entertaining the people of Europe by busking with his guitar or saxophone in their marketplaces, especially in the south of France.
He was given a small puppy in the marketplace of St Girons four years ago. For some reason he thought that the small puppy, a Pyrenean sheep dog, would not grow into a big dog, but she has and will now accompany him on his planned journey across France and Spain to the south of Portugal.
For the last three years he has lived in England but now he is returning under the rules brought in after Brexit which make his life very much more difficult.
He will be allowed to stay for only 90 days in EU countries before having to leave the EU for a further 90 days at least. To take his dog with him he has had to pay about £180 pounds for veterinary records to satisfy the French authorities. I think this is not an inevitable consequence of Brexit but a consequence of the French trying to make life difficult for people of countries that leave the European Union.
In addition, he has had to pay for vaccinations including a rabies vaccination, something he finds strange since there are no cases of rabies in England or France.
He plans to keep some sort of video log of his journey..

Paul Roberts, guitarist
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Cleo Laine – Jazz Singer

Cleo Laine, brilliant documentary

I strongly recommend you to see the Cleo Laine documentary on BBC iPlayer.

I bought the All About Me Cleo Laine LP well over 50 years ago, and I once saw her with the Johnny Dankworth band in Worthing.

So I knew she was a wonderful singer with a great voice and a three octave range. But when I saw the BBC documentary, which included many of her performances, shown in full, to celebrate he 95th birthday on 28th October 2022, I was astonished by her brilliance as a performer and musician.

Available on iPlayer – really something very special.

Here’s a sample of her amazing ability. The BBC documenatary has better quality and a lot of interesting info.

Available only till 27th November 2022  –  iplayer link

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Hans Zimmer – Film Music Genius

Fascinating documentary about a musical genius

Hans Zimmer is the most successful composer of film scores this century. His story was told in a recent BBC2 documentary which can now be seen on BBC iplayer or downloaded from the internet at

It tells how he was expelled from eight schools in Germany before his mother brought him to England where his creative talent was tolerated or even encouraged. He has had a fortnight formal music education.

He began his music career playing working men’s clubs in the north of England before working with synthesisers and computers in a backstreet studio in London and being discovered by Hollywood.

The documentary explores Zimmer’s approach to creating a film score. He has been astonishingly successful.

Next year, with a full orchestra he is doing a European tour appearing in Europe’s major arenas including the O2 in London.

The BBC documentary tells his fascinating story. iplayer Link

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Brilliant South Coast Jazz at Shoreham Just West of Brighton

Just experienced another brilliant jazz morning at the Ropetackle Arts Centre, Shoreham. Sunday 5th December 2021. Mike Hatchard’s “Jazz Breakfast”. Top musicians on brilliant form. Duncan Lamont saxophone and flute, Nils Solberg guitar, Paul Morgan double bass, Mike Hatchard, Keyboard. A scintillating morning.

Mike runs these events every month on the first Sunday of the month at 11 am. Doors open 10.30 am. See what’s coming up at this wonderful arts venue:

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Philharmonia – psychological thriller on All4, on demand

Philharmonia - psychological thriller on All4, on demand

Philharmonia is a French six-part psychological drama. We are watching it on All4 via our phone and chromecast but there are other ways to access All4 free on demand series.
The story is set in Paris, mainly in the concert hall of a top French orchestra. The cast comprises mainly members of the orchestra as they try to cope with a difficult new female conductor, Hélène Barizet.

Ruthless musical director

 Hélène begins her relationship with the orchestra by firing the top player, the “first violin”. By doing this she immediately turns the whole orchestra against her, so the scene is set for many conflicts.
Added to this problem, the French horn player is having an affair with her husband and Hélène is stressed because she fears she may have the same incurable degenerative disease that her mother has. Further anxiety is caused when a super-rich financier is called in to bail out the near bankrupt orchestra. It appears that this individual had an abusive and frightening relationship with Hélène sometime in the past.

Common human problems

So the drama is not simply gripping but it does explore human problems, including the difficulties of managing a creative team.
One critic (in The Guardian) describes the drama as over the top. Perhaps it is, but if it were just everyday real life it would not have the same excitement. Hélène’s conducting is not very convincing either, but that’s not the main point.

Orchestras, with their extraordinary collection of huge musical talent and their astonishing cooperation in the pursuit of sublime music, are wonders to behold.

For me, seeing and hearing the orchestra at work and struggling with relationships and personal problems on and off stage makes for fascinating and rewarding viewing.

David Roberts 11 August 2021

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Buddy Rich – Nutville – Driving Jazz Performance

For many years I have heard talk of Buddy Rich as “the greatest drummer in the world”. Recently, through the gift of YouTube, I’ve been able to see and hear him at work. I don’t agree with “best in the world” titles but Buddy Rich is certainly a great drummer and what’s more he’s a great band leader, too. So here’s a sample, Nutville:


Buddy Rich was born in Brooklyn, New York on September 30, 1917 and died April 2, 1987.

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Errol Garner – Concert by the sea

Concert by the Sea - the famous Erroll Garner Concert

Concert By The Sea was one of the first LPs I ever bought. I was 18 at the time and very impressed by the energy and style of this great pianist, Erroll Garner. This was 1960. The recording had been made in 1955.

Live performance tonight

Tonight, 29th of April 2021, will be a chance for anyone to log on to Facebook at 8 pm British Summer Time and hear another brilliant pianist, Mike Hatchard, play Garner’s tunes and recreate the panache of the original live concert.

Surprise success from casual recording

Concert by the Sea was never planned as as a big recording event.The concert was simply recorded for a local radio station along the coast from the small town of Carmel-by-the Sea in California.
Colombia got to hear of the recording. Record producers selected a number of tracks from that recording and put out the album. Recording executives were surprised at the huge response the album received.

Longer version of the concert now available

In recent times the recording has been remastered and and many tracks which were not included on the original album have been added to the available CDs so that the full concert is now available. 


On Amazon the more expensive version is described as “expanded” with a “free” MP3 version included. Click links to see details.  There is also a vinyl version!

David Roberts

29 April 2021

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Support British Musicians and the British Music Industry

Support British Musicians and the British Music Industry

Brexit in practice shows that negotiated arrangements are, in some cases, very unsatisfactory.

Something needs to be done to correct problems that should never have arisen.


Power is with The European Commission

The difficulty now is that the real power to make changes lies with the unelected European Commission. Petitions need to reach the Commission.

In the meantime our access route is through the government. Petitions are circulating. Everyone can help by signing these petitions in support of action that the government needs to take.

British Musicians need help

Here’s some information from the BBC with a link to the full article on the BBC website.

“What are the issues?

Now that free movement has ended, UK musicians and crews will need a visa for stays of longer than 90 days in a 180-day period. Certain EU countries will also require additional work permits on arrival; and touring bands will also have to pay for carnets (permits) for their equipment and merchandise.

According to the Association of British Orchestras, another barrier is the imposition of limits on road haulage – with new rules stating drivers must return to the UK after visiting two EU member states.

“This makes the standard touring model of moving musical instruments by truck from the UK to venues in multiple countries impossible,” said the ABO.

“The UK’s orchestras will need to look at hiring in European road haulage operators at additional expense.”

Read more from the BBC “

Here are links to petitions

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Spotify needs a new formula for sharing revenue with musicians

Spotify dominates the music industry of the world with its music streaming service.

In December 2020 it is a company valued at 60 billion dollars.

Currently 90% of Spotify’s huge revenue goes to just 1% of the musicians on its books. 99% of musicians share the remaining 10 percent of revenue. This cannot be right.

The winners are being paid excessively whilst equally talented artists, serving local or national audiences receive a pittance. Of course “top musicians” are talented, hard-working and bring pzazz to their music, but they are being paid primarily for being well-known and well publicised by the media companies that manage them.

Most of these superstars began their musical careers as unknowns. They may have been lucky enough to have been picked up a major record label. The Beatles did this when they were on the verge of giving up the effort to find a backer. They almost missed out. But for that last minute stroke of luck the Beatles might have ended their careers as a local Liverpool band that lasted just a few years.

Until quite recent times musicians could earn useful sums of money through the sales of LPS and CDs. Record labels may not have the financial resources they once had.The record market has now, for all practical purposes, disappeared, yet to compete, in the world of Spotify and music streaming, newcomers find themselves at a huge disadvantage.

The amount paid for each stream of a track varies from country to country. In the UK the amount paid by Spotify is £0.0028. (NME) Managements and promoters may take a large proportion of this tiny sum.

It must be in the interest of Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and others to encourage and develop new talent and this can surely be done partly by introducing a sliding scale of payment. For example, the first thousand streams could be paid at a very much higher rate than the next 1000 and when the streams of music go beyond, say, 100,000 the payment per stream could drop further. In that way more money would be channelled to emerging and other professional musicians and the excessive money paid to superstars could be reasonably reduced.

David Roberts.
Please share
9 December 202

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Juliette Greco, Iconic French Singer and Actress Dies

Juliette Greco, French singer and actress died on the 23rd of September 2020 at the age of 93.

She was known for her stunning good looks, her sultry voice and her colourful life.

Captivated so many

After the Second World War she was the darling of the philosophers, poets and musicians of existentialist Paris. She was married three times and had a long relationship with the American film producer, Darryl Zanuck.


She was born in the south of France in Montpellier. It appears that her mother abandoned her and she was brought up for the first 7 years of her life by her maternal grandparents in Bordeaux. At the age of 7 she returned to her mother and Juliette and her sister went with their mother to Paris.

Victim of the Second World War

During the war her mother worked for the French resistance and she and her two daughters were arrested by the Gestapo in 1943. Juliette’s mother and sister were taken off to Ravensbruck concentration camp and Juliette, then aged 16 was tortured and spent time as a prisoner of the Germans in France’s second largest prison, in Fresnes.

Her mother and sister survived the concentration camp but returned home emaciated and barely recognisable.

Of her Gestapo interrogator Juliette Greco wrote, ““I will never forgive him. I know that I myself will fight until the last day of my life, against oppression, against intellectual terrorism, indifference and the denial of the only treasure that is worth preserving at all costs: the right to live as we choose, to think, to laugh, to give, to change, to love without fear whatever and whoever we love.”

Greco’s admirers

Her admirers included Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Jacques Prévert, Boris Vian, Jean Cocteau, Sacha Distel, American musician/composer Quincy Jones, and the U.S. jazz musician Miles Davis. Many songs were specially written and composed for her. Joseph Kosma, Charles Trenet, George Brassens, Serge Gainsbourg all wrote music for her.

British admirers

According to Wikipedia she had a number of notable English admirers too. “Michelle, by the Beatles was inspired by Gréco and the Parisian Left Bank culture. Paul McCartney said of the song: ‘We’d tag along to these parties, and it was at the time of people like Juliette Greco, the French bohemian thing. They’d all wear black turtleneck sweaters. It’s kind of where we got all that from, and we fancied Juliette like mad. Have you ever seen her? Dark hair, real chanteuse, really happening. So I used to pretend to be French, and I had this song that turned out later to be Michelle.’”
John Lennon wrote in Skywriting by Word of Mouth: “I’d always had a fantasy about a woman who would be a beautiful, intelligent, dark-haired, high-cheek-boned, free-spirited artist à la Juliette Gréco.”
Marianne Faithfull said of Gréco: “When I was a young girl, Juliette Gréco was my absolute idol…She’s my role model for life. If I want to be anybody, I want to be Juliette Gréco”


Juliette Greco was married to actor Philippe Lemaire (1953–1956), actor Michel Piccoli (1966–1977) and pianist Gérard Jouannest (1988 until his death in 2018). She had a daughter who died of cancer at the age of 60.


She was honoured by the French state and establishment, becoming Commander of the Legion of Honour (2012): and receiving the National Order of Merit (2015). The honour of Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters she received in 2016.

She was the last of the great chanteuse.

David. 2 October 2020.

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Conductor, Bernard Haitink. Interesting programme on BBC i-player

Bernard Haitink, now 91, (October 2020) is the revered Dutch conductor who has worked for many decades in the UK, as well as conducting orchestras around Europe and in America.

In the UK he has conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Glyndebourne Opera  and the Royal Opera House Covent Garden.

He has made a huge number of recordings including the complete symphonies of Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Bruckner, Mahler, Shostakovich and Vaughan Williams

Bernard Haitink, the Enigmatic Maestro was recently on BBC Four and is now available on BBC iPlayer. This documentary includes an extended interviews with him and his contemporaries. He discusses the art of conducting and his slow and troubled progress to his present status as one of the world’s leading conductors. He comes over as a fascinating, shy man, lacking in confidence in spite of his huge success. 

Bernard Haitink, the Enigmatic Maestro is available on i-player until 25th October 2020.


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Vera Lynn, outstanding British singer, dies June 2020

Vera Lynn was a British national institution whose name was known by every member of the older generation and a great many much younger people. She died on the 18th of June 2020 in the village of Ditchling where she had lived for over 50 years and which is just a few miles from where we live.

Her songs are recognised and many are well-known by most people in Britain as the great songs of the Second World War that inspired and comforted British troops. She encouraged and impressed them by visiting them and singing for them in the war zones of Egypt, India and Burma.

She was an exceptional singer in so many ways, famous, admired, adored by millions, she remained unaffected, natural, modest, simple, sincere, quietly courageous and warm. She had a wonderful voice and was born to sing.
She became the oldest living artist to top the UK Albums Chart with the compilation album We’ll Meet Again: The Very Best of Vera Lynn. This was in 2009 when she was 92 years old.

70 years ago, as a child, I, and our whole family having Sunday lunch, used to listen to a record request programme on the radio. It was called Forces Favourites and later was renamed Family Favourites. It was here that I first heard the unique, strong and warm voice of Vera Lynn and songs such as, We’ll meet again, and There’ll Always Be an England.

Hear Vera Lynn sing

You can see and hear Vera Lynn sing in 1943 and 1995 below these pictures.

Vera Lynn's Funeral procession through the village of Ditchling in Sussex,
10 July 2020
Dame Vera Lynn with Katherine Jenkins, May 2005
Dame Vera Lynn