“I’m Feeling Good” by Nina Simone Shared by Liz Buchanan on Throwback Thursday

“I’m Feeling Good” by Nina Simone on Throwback Thursday

By Liz Buchanan

This “Throwback Thursday” song once again demonstrates how we gather ideas from each other. I learned this song last year from my Boston-area colleague Kirsten Lamb. She and I were both working for Young Audiences of Massachusetts as teaching artists at Horizons for Homeless Children.

I saw a video of Kirsten with her stand-up bass, leading three and four-year-olds in the classic jazz song, “I’m Feeling Good,” by Nina Simone. I had never heard it, but was instantly taken with the song’s possibilities for young children. I taught the song to my kindergarten students soon after. Kirsten’s version takes some liberty with Simone’s original lyrics in order to adapt it for younger singers. Though originally Simone sang the whole song herself, Kirsten reworked the song to make it call and response, with the kids keeping a steady beat on their legs and singing “I’m feeling good” in response on each line.

Lyrics:

Birds flying high – I’m feeling good

Sun in the sky – I’m feeling good

Breeze drifting by – I’m feeling good

It’s a new day – I’m feeling good.

Fish in the sea– I’m feeling good

River running free– I’m feeling good

Blossom on the tree– I’m feeling good

It’s a new day – I’m feeling good.

Dragonfly in the sun– I’m feeling good

Butterflies having fun– I’m feeling good

Sleep when day is done– I’m feeling good

It’s a new world – I’m feeling good.

Stars when you shine– I’m feeling good

Scent of a pine– I’m feeling good

Freedom is mine– I’m feeling good

It’s a new day – I’m feeling good.

I asked Kirsten how she came up with her version of the song, and she responded, “I started by simplifying the Nina Simone tune/lyrics, to focus on making it a call and response song. The idea for doing this song came out of one student’s repeated request to see a piano. So I brought in a recording of a piano playing, and a picture of Nina Simone playing piano, since I thought it would be quietly empowering for the students to see a black woman playing the piano. That led to looking for a Nina Simone song that I could teach to the class, and I settled on “I’m Feeling Good.”

Kirsten added that it was important to her to keep the overall feel of the song intact, which I believe her version does. Take a listen  here!

I’ve sung the song for two years with kindergarten students in February and March, making connections to Black History Month and Women’s History Month. I talk about Nina Simone as a jazz singer and songwriter who was also involved in the civil rights movement.

Most young children are familiar with Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, but hearing about Nina Simone helps them gain the perspective that the movement was much bigger than any two individuals. I also remind them that the movement isn’t over. Unfortunately, we still need to advocate for everyone’s equality, rights and freedoms.

We can also sing a “feeling good” song and celebrate the coming of spring!

Thanks for sharing Liz! What children’s song gets you “feeling good”? Share in your comments below!