Nina Simone, “My Baby Just Cares For Me” (1958)
Nina Simone had many iconic songs, like “Feeling Good” and her version of “I Loves You, Porgy” from the Gershwin musical Porgy And Bess. She also became as well known for her activism as her music, penning “To Be Young, Gifted, And Black” and “Mississippi Goddam” in the face of racial injustice. But the song that she’s perhaps best known for now, “My Baby Just Cares For Me” (from 1958’s Little Girl Blue), had a surprise resurgence three decades after it was first recorded, thanks to an unlikely pair of events. First, action-movie director Ridley Scott dusted it off for a 1987 Chanel No. 5 commercial, featuring Bond Girl Carole Bouquet.
That same year, fledgling animation studio Aardman made a video of the song, featuring Simone as a singing black cat at a nightclub, with a clumsy white cat besotted with her. This was two years before Aardman was about to hit big with its first Wallace And Gromit short, as well as the award-winning Creature Comforts. The “My Baby Just Cares For Me” video, with its expressive, all-feline band backing up Simone, showed the untapped potential of the studio, as well as the inherent charm still present in productions like the recent Shaun The Sheep The Movie.
Fortunately, when Simone recorded the song in 1957, she did so in a timeless manner, with piano plinks and sultry percussion brushes telling the story of her infatuated admirer. Her unabashed confidence and mesmerizing vocals sell the song—who wouldn’t be smitten?—and pop-culture references to Liz Taylor and Liberace resonated in 1987 almost as much as they did in 1958.
The attention around Scott’s commercial and the Aardman short took “My Baby” to no. 5 on the English singles chart in 1987. Although other greats like Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald recorded the song, Simone’s stands as definitive. The recent Nina Simone documentary details the rough path she had to the front of the stage, but tracks like “My Baby Just Cares For Me” show why it’s so great that she made the journey.