Here’s an achingly beautiful 1962 performance by Nina Simone of the song that started her career: “I Loves You Porgy,” from the 1935 George Gershwin opera Porgy and Bess. The performance begins with Simone’s own plaintive version of the calls of the Strawberry Woman and the Crab Man from Act II:
They’re so soft and fine
And they’re just off the vine
I’m talkin’ about the food I sell
I’m talkin’ about my devil crabs
She then transitions into “I Loves You Porgy,” with lyrics by Ira Gershwin. The song was written as a duet, but was later performed solo by a number of artists, including Billie Holiday. Simone recorded it in December of 1957, when she was 24 years old. It was released the following year on her debut album Little Girl Blue. At the time, she was still hoping for a career as a classical pianist. “I Loves You Porgy” was a big success for the young Simone–the only top 40 hit she would ever have– and it helped chart the course of her career as a blues and jazz musician with strong classical influences.