Nina Simone, the High Priestess of Soul, would have turned 81 today. A perfect time, then, to revisit her fabulous cover of the classic Hebrew song, Eretz Zavat Chalav (“The Land of Milk and Honey”).
Over at Jewniverse, Matthue Roth writes that Simone likely learned the tune from Shlomo Carlebach, “who she met in the 1950s, while they were both getting their starts in their chosen careers: Carlebach playing the folk circuit, Simone as a lounge singer.” (Indeed, Simone is depicted as Carlebach’s muse in the recent biomusical Soul Doctor, though some critics believe the closeness of their relationship is overstated.)
In a 2010 piece for Jewcy, biographer Nadine Cohodas explains that Simone incorporated the song into her repertoire to help showcase the talents of Brooklyn percussionist Montego Joe. She performed the song on CBS program Camera Three in the fall of 1962, at Carnegie Hall in Spring 1963, and later that year in the nationally syndicated folk-music television program, Hootenanny.
Here it is: