Weekend Edition Sunday, April 6, 2008 – Three days after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, performer Nina Simone and her band played at the Westbury Music Festival on Long Island, N.Y. They performed “Why? (The King of Love is Dead),” a song they had just learned, written by their bass player Gene Taylor in reaction to King’s death.
Simone’s brother, Samuel Waymon, who was on stage playing the organ, talks with Lynn Neary about that day and reaction to the civil rights leader’s assassination.
“We learned that song that (same) day,” says Waymon. “We didn’t have a chance to have two or three days of rehearsal. But when you’re feeling compassion and outrage and wanting to express what you know the world is feeling, we did it because that’s what we felt.”
Waymon and the band’s performance of “Why? (Then King of Love is Dead)” lasted nearly 15 minutes as Nina Simone sang, played and sermonized about the loss everyone was feeling.
The song later appeared on several greatest-hits collections, most recently on the Anthology release from RCA.