Nina Simone gives my boy wind

One of the greatest singer-songwriters that ever lived gives my son wind. Not that I’m aware of this yet.

I’m sitting on the window seat with my legs against the frame, the wean half-lying on my thighs, half-squatting. We are bonding in the way fathers and very young kids bond, by staring at each other.

It’s a nice day to play football in the garden, I think, but I don’t have a football, and he can’t walk or co-ordinate his limbs. We could play Cowboys and Indians, but he doesn’t understand scalping, and I’m not sure it’s politically correct.

And then it happens: a slow gummy smile, the corners of his mouth perking up with what I can only assume is joy. Nina Simone’s version of Here Comes The Sun has been chosen at random by the computer on the table.

His smile broadens further. It’s true. My son likes Nina Simone. Hey everyone, my son likes Nina Simone. I like her too – that’s why she’s on my computer. We are peas in a pod, sire and son.

But I can’t just leave it be. I click on various tracks in the iTunes library to test my theory. When I play some second-rate Ibiza chillout track, he looks out at the clouds. For Radiohead, his expression is like that of many Radiohead fans at the group’s concerts: he looks at his belly button, then glumly into the middle distance.

But I’m sure he’ll like Al Green. In the latter stages of my wife’s pregnancy, we went to four concerts in quick succession. Leonard Cohen was OK: the Unborn rearranged himself during Hallelujah, and had the hiccups during I’m Your Man. He was unimpressed with Oasis, and only marginally more animated during a De Rosa gig the following night.

But Al Green had him slapping the umbilical cord from start to finish like the strings of a double bass. I click on Let’s Stay Together, from the seminal 1972 album of the same name. Here he goes, lemme hear you ... Oh. Nothing.

I can feel my own hips moving when the brass section kicks in but the wee man is staring blankly, unmoved. Shit. How very disappointing.

Not much happens until Parliament with George Clinton, at which point his eyebrows quiver. His left knee twitches, then his right, and I have the distinct impression that he is about to start dancing.

He does something with his arms I’ve never seen before in man or mammal. Oh no. Our son has The Funk. We’ve only just stopped feeding him antibiotics and now this. I can only assume, given his tepid response to Al Green, that it’s getting worse, that The Funk is spreading.

Where will it end? I put Nina Simone back on and he settles. Her vibrato delivery brings on another smile. “Oh look,” I tell my wife as she comes through to the kitchen. “He loves it.” “That’s not a real smile,” she says. “That just means he’s got wind.”


First published in The Sunday Herald, 2009.