Nina Simone is that rarity, a serious jazz artist who regularly not only recorded pop songs, but also had hit singles. The biggest of these was 1969's "To Be Young, Gifted and Black," which Simone wrote with her new protégé Weldon Irvine, a young jazz musician and composer of musicals, whose haunting lyrics paid tribute to the late playwright Lorraine Hansberry, author of the familiar quote "Though it be a thrilling and marvellous thing to be merely young and gifted in such times, it is doubly so, doubly dynamic - to be young, gifted and black." Simone's setting for Irvine's lyrics has a solemn, hymnal feel, complete with a full gospel chorus and orchestra, but the arrangement also swings in an understated way, filled with tricky syncopations and the canny use of whole rests. The results sound very similar to some of Aretha Franklin's ballad performances, and the Queen of Soul almost immediately paid tribute to Simone's song, recording it on her own 1971 album Young Gifted and Black. Simone had the bigger hit, however, reaching the top of the Billboard R&B charts with this lovely, heartfelt rendition. The oddest rendition, however, has to be the version Elton John recorded in 1970 during his infamous stint recording the vocals on quickie soundalike covers of popular hits, which is available on several collections of these curios.