Originally an African American traditional spiritual track, where the earliest recording was by the Les Baxter Orchestra in 1956, with lead vocals from folk singer Will Holt. Jazz and soul pioneer Nina Simone recorded her own version (which is over 10 minutes long and is Simone’s longest track) on her 1965 album “Pastel Blues”.
Simone had originally heard the lyrics of the song in her childhood when it used at revival meetings by her mother who was a Methodist minister, which allowed people to confess their sins. During the early sixties at the start of Simone’s career, she was particularly involved in the scene in Greenwich Village in New York, and used to perform “Sinnerman” as the ending track for each show. Simone’s version of the track is considered to be the most famous, glorious and influential pieces of jazz ever known. The lyrics tell the story of a man filled with sin, who constantly runs from his past sins as well as the judgment of God.
In February 2009, a user named “chacho mg” uploaded the full version of the song to YouTube, accompanied by a black and white photo of Simone smoking a cigarette. As of September 2019, the video has over 24.2 million views and almost 150,000 likes on YouTube.
Release Date: 20th May 1965
Songwriter/s: Will Holt & Les Baxter
Producer/s: Hal Mooney
Chart Rankings: “Sinnerman” spent 265 weeks on the US Billboard Jazz Digital Songs Sales chart, peaking on the 26th March 2016 when it ranked at #2.