Nina Simone with her daughter, Lisa, in 1968Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty

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There’s a moment in Nina Simone’s tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., performed three days after he was killed, in 1968, when you can hear her exhale an under-the-breath “hm.” (Listen at the 1:34 mark.) It’s a sound of many things. It’s a note of contemplation, commemoration, exhaustion, and anguish. It’s also a sound of resilience and strength, a single syllable that reflects some of the history of ’68. Much has changed in the intervening decades, but her echoes continue.

As she began to sing, she told the audience, “This whole program is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King. You know that anyway.” Her bassist had written it hours earlier. It’s not just “a performance,” she added. “Not microphones and all that…but really something else.” In one verse she asks, “Will my country stand or fall? Is it too late for us all? He was for equality for all people, you and me. Full of love and good will. Hate was not his way…Folks you’d better stop and think, and feel again, for we’re headed for the brink.”

In commemoration of MLK Jr. Day this year, Healdsburg Jazz streamed a resounding celebration of his life by the bassist and artistic director Marcus Shelby, pianist Tammy Hall, and vocalist Kim Nalley, who performed Simone’s song with a topspin that lifted melodically what, for Simone, was a mournful ballad. “Now more than ever we are compelled to use music as a healing force,” Shelby said.

Listen for Simone’s “hm” at 1:34 and “oh yeah” at 1:53. Here’s a second by Simone, with video, and, after, a jolting 2018 coda by the Surinamese Dutch singer Sabrina Starke.

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Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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