Nearly 50 years ago, the legendary Nina Simone covered Billy Taylor’s poignant “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free” on her 1967 Silk & Soul studio album. Reinforcing the eternal dichotomy between the enduring legacy of systemic racism in America and unfulfilled aspirations of freedom harbored by Black citizens, the stirring gospel and jazz inspired composition became a powerful anthem of the Civil Rights Movement during the ‘60s.
Five decades later, the acclaimed singer-songwriter Courtney Marie Andrews has teamed up with Will Oldham a.k.a. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy to cover the song for the ambitious Our First 100 Days project. Conceived as a musical counterpoint to President Trump’s inaugural 100 days in office, the effort features rare tracks by a wide range of artists committed to preserving the freedoms and causes threatened by the current administration, including women’s rights, immigration, and climate change. The duo’s contribution is the 67th of the planned 100, and follows songs provided by the likes of Marissa Nadler, Angel Olson, Kate Tempest, and Toro y Moi, among many others.
“A lot of these issues are still relevant today and I wanted to sing a song that had a palpable voice for those issues,” Andrews explained in an official statement. “I'll never know what it was like to walk the rocky path that Nina did, but her power and unyielding strength was and is something to aspire to.”
Listen to “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free” below (as well as Nina Simone’s version) and learn more about Our First 100 Days here, including how to download all 100 songs. Also, be sure to catch the supremely talented Courtney Marie Andrews on tour in support of her most recent album Honest Life now throughout the spring and summer.