Kicking off this week’s theme of soul, R&B, and hip hop protest songs is Nina Simone’s “Mississippi G*ddamn” (1963).
Who wrote/performed it: Nicknamed the “High Priestess of Soul,” Nina Simone wrote the song and performed it live in Carnegie Hall in 1964. The song was released on her Nina Simon in Concert album.
What it means: Simone’s song was written in response to a number of tragic events during the civil rights era – specifically, the murder of Medgar Evers in Mississippi as well as the bombing of the church in Birmingham, AL, which killed four little Black girls. She declares, sarcastically, on the recording that the song is a “show tune, but the show hasn’t been written for it yet.” She says this, because the song begins with a show tune feel, but then gradually delves into the deeper, darker racial issues plaguing America. In the song, she counters the then-popular argument that civil rights activists should act gradually. Instead, she demands equality immediately.
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!”
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 G*ddamn!
Interesting Fact: “Mississippi G*ddamn” wasn’t the only protest song Nina Simone wrote. Never one to shy away from addressing social issues, she also wrote “Four Women” and “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black.”
Simone performing the song live in Carnegie Hall (1964).