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Friday, September 9, 2011

Two Versions of Nina Simone's Mississippi Song

Written by Azizi Powell

It's rare that I listen to any song that contains profanity, however this song is a definite exception.



Uploaded by jeff8323 on Oct 1, 2008

-snip-

Here's my transcription of the lyrics to the version of this song.

Nina Simone - "Mississippi Goddam" (1963)

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 sittin 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 believin in prayer

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

But that's just the trouble
"go slow"
Washing the windows
"go slow"
Pickin the cotton
"go slow"
You're just plain rotten
"go slow"
You're too damn lazy
"go 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'

Picket lines, school boy, cops
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 all gonna die and die like flies
I don't trust you any more
You keep on sayin "Go slow!"
Go slow!

But that's just the trouble
[go slow]
Desegregation
[go slow]
Mass participation
[go slow]
Reunification
[go slow]
Do things gradually
[go slow]
But bring more tragedy
[go 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!

-snip-

Note: My transcription of this song differs from those found on online lyrics sites in these ways: I left off the "g" in words like "sitting"'; I believe the response is "go slow" and not "do it slow" ; and I think Nina Simone sang "picket lines, school boy, cops, and not "school boy cots".

-snip-

Here's another version of Nina Simone's song "Mississippi Goddam" :

Nina Simone -"Mississippi Goddam"



Uploaded by cartaxocriavideo on Apr 8, 2011

To differentiate it from this song's more widely known form, perhaps this version could be called "Mississippi Goddam" (Go Slow)

This is the video which is posted under the title "Nina Simone-"Mississippi Goddam" as #67 in Time Out London's list of 100 Songs That Changed History.

Here's the write-up that accompanies that song:

The roots of one of one of the most nuanced protest songs ever were anything but calm. After a spate of Klan killings in 1963, the murder of four children at Alabama's 16th Street Baptist Church sent Nina Simone into such a rage that she initially attempted to assemble a crude zip gun. Talked down by her husband, she took her fury immediately to the piano and within an hour had 'Mississippi Goddam'. Incredibly, it transcends its manic creation. After lulling the listener in with a jaunty show tune rhythm, Simone subtly changes key from G to E at which point she bombards them with a relentless, beautiful torrent of anger and outrage over the slow speed of change. Though banned in several Southern states, it was a long-overdue articulation that resonated hugely until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and beyond.

Here's my transcription of that version's lyrics:

Nina Simone - "Mississippi Goddam" ("Go Slow" version)

Hound dogs on my trail
School children sittin in jail
Black cat crossed 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 even stopped believin in prayer
Don’t tell me
I’ll tell you
Me and my people just about due
I been there so I know
They keep on sayin
Go slow
That’s what they say
Go slow
That’s what they say
Go slow
That’s what’s the trouble
[Go slow]
Washin the windows
[Go slow]
Pickin the cotton
[Go slow]
With nothing but rotten
[Go slow]
We’re too damn lazy
[Go slow]
I think it’s crazy
[Go slow]
Where am I goin
What am I doin
I don’t know
I don’t know
Try to do your very best
Stand up. Be counted with all the rest.
Cause everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam.

Yeah! Hit it!

(Scatting)

Picket lines, school boys, cops
They try to say it’s a communist plot
But all I want is equality
For my sister, my brother, my people and me.
My people and me.
You lied to me all these years.
You told me to watch and clean my ears.
And talk real fine just like a lady.
You’d stop callin me "Sister Sadie."
Oh but my country’s full of lies
We’re all gonna die
And die like flies
Cause I don’t trust nobody anymore
They keep on sayin "Go Slow"
Yeah, that’s what they say.
Go slow
Well, that’s just the trouble
[Go slow]
Desegregation
[Go slow]
Mass participation
[Go slow]
Reunification
[Go slow]
Do things gradually
[Go slow]
Will bring more tragedy
I don’t see it
I don’t feel it
I don’t know
I don’t know
You don’t have to live next to me
Just give me my equality
Cause everybody knows about Mississippi
Everybody knows about Alabama
Everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam.

-snip-

I don't know whether this song changed history or not. But I do know that both versions of Nina Simone's Mississippi song articulate what I feel when I read or hear about another racial atrocity in Mississippi or wherever.

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2 comments:

  1. the song was later banned. perhaps that led to a lyric changed.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for your comment, Anonymous.

    Here's a brief quote from http://www.newstatesman.com/music/2010/03/mississippi-goddam-nina-simone about Nina Simone's "Mississippi" song:

    "The words of Nina Simone during the live performance of "Mississippi Goddam" are ironic. The show had already played out, namely the murder of the civil rights activist Medgar Evers in June 1963 by the Klu Klux Klansman Byron De La Beckwith. The shooting led to a spate of civil rights songs including Bob Dylan's "Only a Pawn in Their Game"....

    Couched in upbeat accompaniment, the ridiculous jauntiness gives way to the sadness of the images...

    Even with this subtlety and moderate demands -- "All I want is equality for my sister, my brother, my people and me" -- the song was banned in several southern US states. "You lied to me all these years," Simone sings as her anger rises to a crescendo: "Oh but this whole country is full of lies/You're all gonna die and die like flies."

    End of quote.

    Given that song's inclusion of profanity, it's not surprising that it was banned and probably is still banned from airing on numerous American (and other nation's) radio and television stations. Of course, that song's subject matter makes it even more likely to be putright banned from airing or performance, and just purposely left of off station playlists stations throughout the USA and not just in the South (when that song was first composed and currently).

    ReplyDelete