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Nina Simone: Mississippi Goddam and more

by Dave Riley

Last night I watched* Nina Simone perform (1984) Mississippi Godam in counterpoint with Brecht/Weil's Alabama Song (from Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny) . The woman is so friggin unique and utterly amazing!

When I first heard her perform this version I was left gasping.

This video below is the only visual I could find of the song-- but it's without the Brecht and Weil...and without the edge you'll find in the audio below. The goddess was being a touch lazy the night it was filmed.

(I'm a Brechtophile by the way so I get the Weil/Brecht edge big time).

The song is her response to the murder of Medgar Evers and the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four black children. On the recording she cynically announces the song as "a show tune, but the show hasn't been written for it yet." The song begins jauntily, with a show tune feel, but demonstrates its political focus early on with its refrain "Alabama's got me so upset, Tennessee's made me lose my rest, and everybody knows about Mississippi goddam." In the song she rails on the common argument at the time that civil rights activists and African Americans should "go slow" and make changes in the United States incrementally: "Keep on sayin' 'go slow'...to do things gradually would bring more tragedy. Why don't you see it? Why don't you feel it? I don't know, I don't know. You don't have to live next to me, just give me my equality!"

She performed the song in front of 40,000 people at the end of one of the Selma to Montgomery marches when she and other black activists, including Sam
my Davis Jr., James Baldwin and Harry Belafonte crossed police lines.SOURCE

February 26, 2006 Steve Earl Show

This is a great exploration and discussion of Nina Simone as an artist and activist --and an introduction to her work.Chetnutt's selection will bowl you over.

Guest: Vic Chesnutt
Vic Chesnutt's song choices:
  • Four Women - Nina Simone
  • Pirate Jenny - Nina Simone
  • Mississippi Goddamn - Nina Simone
  • Revolution 1 & 2 - Nina Simone
  • Foder On My Wings - Nina Simone
  • Virginia - Vic Chesnutt

Mississippi Goddam(1963) Nina Simone

The name of this tune is Mississippi Goddam
And I mean every word of it

Alabama's gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

Alabama's gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

Can't you see it
Can't you feel it
It's all in the air
I can't stand the pressure much longer
Somebody say a prayer

Alabama's gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

This is a show tune
But the show hasn't been written for it, yet

Hound dogs on my trail
School children sitting in jail
Black cat cross my path
I think every day's gonna be my last

Lord have mercy on this land of mine
We all gonna get it in due time
I don't belong here
I don't belong there
I've even stopped believing in prayer

Don't tell me
I tell you
Me and my people just about due
I've been there so I know
They keep on saying "Go slow!"

But that's just the trouble
"do it slow"
Washing the windows
"do it slow"
Picking the cotton
"do it slow"
You're just plain rotten
"do it slow"
You're too damn lazy
"do it slow"
The thinking's crazy
"do it slow"
Where am I going
What am I doing
I don't know
I don't know

Just try to do your very best
Stand up be counted with all the rest
For everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

I made you thought I was kiddin' didn't we

Picket lines
School boy cots
They try to say it's a communist plot
All I want is equality
for my sister my brother my people and me

Yes you lied to me all these years
You told me to wash and clean my ears
And talk real fine just like a lady
And you'd stop calling me Sister Sadie

Oh but this whole country is full of lies
You're all gonna die and die like flies
I don't trust you any more
You keep on saying "Go slow!"
"Go slow!"

But that's just the trouble
"do it slow"
"do it slow"
Mass participation
"do it slow"
"do it slow"
Do things gradually
"do it slow"
But bring more tragedy
"do it slow"
Why don't you see it
Why don't you feel it
I don't know
I don't know

You don't have to live next to me
Just give me my equality
Everybody knows about Mississippi
Everybody knows about Alabama
Everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

That's it!

*[The DVD was Nina Simone live at Ronnie Scott's, Wadham Films 1985]

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