My dearest friend for the last 16 years, Al Schackman was Nina Simone’s Music Director, guitarist, and one of her closest allies and friends for 46 years. It was a complex relationship with many ups and downs mostly due to Nina’s emotional condition but through the years when people would take him aside and question “why do you put up with her, why do you stay with her.” Al would simply say, “She’s my sister, I love her with all my heart , she needs me and I don’t expect you to put up with her behavior.”
Al Shackman and Nina Simone, 1997
My relationship with Nina Simone was non-verbal. She had a rule that the girl friends and wives of band members were not allowed on tour because she wanted nothing to interfere with her getting the undivided attention of ‘her boys’.
Perfumes for Nina
When I did go to a concert she and I would look at each other and her telepathic message to me would be something like…”I know who you are and I’m glad that you are here. Thanks for the perfume”. Nina was struggling with her depression most of the time, I understood that and respected her distance. I felt her affection through the little waves she would give me… a barely perceptable lifting of her fingers from the arm of her chair and a “look” through lowered lashes.
She was very seductive, although I’m not sure she knew that. The perfume I made for her was just that….seductive. It was an oriental sambac/ moroccan rose with narcissus, vanilla, chamomile and real musk. Very heavy and sexy, so Nina. The full blown rose, huge and red. She was a Goddess to me.
Later on when Nina had breast cancer she asked Al for “something for the soreness” from “your wife”. I supplied Nina with my Aromatic Healing Balm that she used on her scars for healing and to help with the pain. She really liked that. Nina’s perfume I made for her in liquid and solid form. The solid perfume she used as a deodorant and the liquid she would apply as a light spray on her clothes and on her pillow.
When Al went on tour she would always call and instruct him to “bring my perfume”. She really wanted and appreciated it. I loved making it for her and called it “Rose of Love” although I think the Jasmine was the key aroma that helped with her depression.
Nina’s Amber Necklace
When Nina died her daughter Lisa gave me an amber necklace that had belonged to her. When I put it on a huge shockwave of energy went into my heart. I felt a warmth wash over me as if I had enveloped myself in the fur coat of a mama panther, black and silky and fiercer than anything. I realized then the courage it took Nina to get through every day, and why her music imparts such emotional courage to so many. It’s like, I’m in pain, I know you are too, we are in it together.
- Monica Skye Miller. Skye Botanicals
Monica (Skye) Miller, Perfume Pharmer Blog Owner, Natural Perfumer and founder of Skye Botanicals. The fragrance Fuzzy Blue Blanket, is also a floral chypre, similar to the one made for Nina.
From Nina Simone’s song Last Rose of Summer:
“Tis the last rose of summer, left blooming all alone
All her lovely companions are faded and gone.
No flower of her kindred, no rose bud is nigh
To reflect back her blushes and give sigh for sigh.
I’ll not leave thee, thou lone one! to pine on the stem
Since the lovely are sleeping, go sleep thou with them
‘Thus kindly I scatter thy leaves o’er the bed
Where thy mates of the garden lie scentless and dead.
So soon may I follow, when friendships decay
And from love’s shining circle the gems drop away
When true hearts lie wither’d and fond ones are flown
Oh! who would inhabit this bleak world alone”!
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