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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Two Examples Of Malvina Reynold's Protest Song "It Isn't Nice"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases two examples of Anglo American Malvina Reynolds' protest song "It Isn't Nice". Information about Malvina Reynolds is given in this post along with song lyrics and three examples of that song. Selected examples from YouTube comments threads for this song are also included in this post.

This post also provides information about African American Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers who is mentioned in the song "It Isn't Nice" as well as information about the term "Mister Charlie" which is also mentioned in that song.

The content of this post is presented for socio-cultural, etymological, inspirational, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Malvina Reynolds and Medgar Evers for their lifes' legacies. Thanks to all those who are featured in these YouTube examples, and thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. In addition, thanks to the publishers of these examples on YouTube.

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INFORMATION ABOUT MALVINA REYNOLDS
From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malvina_Reynolds
"Malvina Reynolds (August 23, 1900 – March 17, 1978) was an American folk/blues singer-songwriter and political activist, best known for her song-writing...

Malvina Milder was born in San Francisco to David and Abagail Milder, Jewish and socialist immigrants, who opposed involvement in World War I.

She married William ("Bud") Reynolds, a carpenter and labor organizer, in 1934. They had one child, Nancy Reynolds Schimmel (a songwriter and performer in her own right), in 1935. Malvina earned her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and later earned a doctorate there, finishing her dissertation in 1938.

Music career
Though she played violin in a dance band in her twenties, she began her songwriting career late in life. She was in her late 40s when she met Earl Robinson, Pete Seeger, and other folk singers and songwriters. She returned to school at UC Berkeley, where she studied music theory. She went on to write several popular songs, including "Little Boxes" (1962), recorded by Pete Seeger and others, "What Have They Done to the Rain" (1962), recorded by The Searchers, The Seekers, Marianne Faithfull, Melanie Safka and Joan Baez (about nuclear fallout), "It Isn't Nice" (a civil rights anthem), "Turn Around" (1959) (about children growing up, later sung by Harry Belafonte)”...
-snip-
For the record (no pun intended), Malvina Reynolds was a White American.

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INFORMATION ABOUT MEDGAR EVERS
From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medgar_Evers
"Medgar Wiley Evers (July 2, 1925 – June 12, 1963) was an African American civil rights activist from Mississippi who worked to overturn segregation at the University of Mississippi and gain social justice and voting rights. A World War II veteran and college graduate, he became active in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s. He became a field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Following the 1954 ruling of the United States Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated public schools were unconstitutional, Evers worked to gain admission for African Americans to the state-supported public University of Mississippi. He also worked on voting rights and registration, economic opportunity, access to public facilities, and other changes in the segregated society.

Evers was assassinated by Byron De La Beckwith, a member of the White Citizens' Council, a group formed in 1954 to resist integration of schools and civil rights activity... His murder and the resulting trials inspired civil rights protests, as well as numerous works of art, music, and film. All-white juries failed to reach verdicts in n the first two trials of Beckwith. He was convicted in the new state trial in 1994, based on new evidence."...

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WHAT "MISTER CHARLIE" AND "MISS ANN" MEAN IN VERNACULAR AMERICAN CULTURE
From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mister_Charlie
Mister Charlie is a pejorative expression used within the African-American community to refer to an imperious white man. The expression suggests that whites are generic or interchangeable.[1] Occasionally, it refers to a black man who is arrogant and perceived as "acting white".

The expression is sometimes written as "Mr. Charlie," "Mister Charley," or other variations.[2]
The expression was in use during the 19th century, much like the female equivalent, Miss Ann. Miss Ann was an expression used among slaves to refer to the woman of the house, usually the wife of the slave owner, and any other white woman that the slaves had to serve. Mister Charlie was the slave owner, or any other white man exploiting, or being condescending towards, slaves.[3]

Cassell's Dictionary of Slang (2005) argues that in the 1920s, "Mister Charlie" meant "any white man," but in the 1970s evolved to mean "the man in power."[4]

In the 1960s the phrase was associated with the Civil Rights movement in the United States and became "nationally familiar."[5] It appeared in the title of James Baldwin's play Blues for Mister Charlie (1964) and in the third verse of Malvina Reynolds's protest song "It Isn't Nice" (1967):
We have tried negotiations / And the three-man picket line, / Mr. Charlie didn't see us / And he might as well be blind. / Now our new ways aren't nice / When we deal with men of ice, / But if that is Freedom's price, / We don't mind.[6]

The expression has fallen out of use by young African-Americans today.[7]"
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Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2016/04/the-clean-meaning-of-name-becky-in.html for a loosely related pancocojams post on the vernacular referent "Becky" which refers to White women in general or a sub-set of White women. That post mentions the earlier use of "Miss Ann".

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LYRICS - IT ISN'T NICE
(Malvina Reynolds)

John Clark9 months ago
It isn't nice to block the doorway,
It isn't nice to go to jail,
There are nicer ways to do it,
But the nice ways always fail.
It isn't nice, it isn't nice,
You told us once, you told us twice,
But if that is Freedom's price,
We don't mind.

It isn't nice to carry banners
Or to sit in on the floor,
Or to shout our cry of Freedom
At the hotel and the store.
It isn't nice, it isn't nice,
You told us once, you told us twice,
But if that is Freedom's price,
We don't mind.

We have tried negotiations
And the three-man picket line,
Mr. Charlie didn't see us
And he might as well be blind.
Now our new ways aren't nice
When we deal with men of ice,
But if that is Freedom's price,
We don't mind.

How about those years of lynchings
And the shot in Evers' back?
Did you say it wasn't proper,
Did you stand upon the track?
You were quiet just like mice,
Now you say we aren't nice,
And if that is Freedom's price,
We don't mind.

It isn't nice to block the doorway,
It isn't nice to go to jail,
There are nicer ways to do it
But the nice ways always fail.
It isn't nice, it isn't nice,
But thanks for your advice,
Cause if that is Freedom's price,
We don't mind.

Source: comment by John Clark (2015) in the discussion thread for https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvC4xq32AX8 (given below as Example #1)

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FEATURED EXAMPLES
Example #1: Malvina Reynolds - It Isn't nice



Kevin Jordan Uploaded on Apr 19, 2009
-snip-
Selected comments from that sound file's discussion thread:
2009
stickynyki
"singing somber words without a somber tone....damn great 'stuff'.
thanks for posting this!!"

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2011
Susanna J. Sturgis
"Just came looking for "It Isn't Nice" because it's so totally appropriate for a struggle that's going on where I live. Those in power are taking us to task for our "unwarranted accusations" and our "extremely strong opinions and words." Malvina, you had it right in the 1960s and you've got it right now."

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BuddhaBebop
"It's so weird she's encouraging democracy and revolution for the benefit of all the people while all the time sounding like a grandmother."

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121ramondo
"Ive never heard of this woman, got here because of the 02 advert. I love her aging emotional voice, makes me think of her as a gentle, ageing granny activist"

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mindofalbion
"this is ace!

But if that is Freedom's price,
We don't mind."
-snip-
Although this is an aside, I added this comment because of the "this is ace!" sentence. That's something my mother used to say. It means the same thing as "That's great", but I rarely have heard or seen anyone use that saying. It occurs to me that I have used and heard the related word "aced" as in "I aced that exam" (I got an A in that exam.) I guess the saying "This is ace" comes from playing cards.

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2012
BigMapleFishThing
"This is important work that many grandmas do! Grandmothers (and mamas, and aunties and great-grandmas) all over the world organize for justice, peace and freedom."

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Susanna J. Sturgis
"Sending this out to George Will, who says that gay men and lesbians aren't being "neighborly" or "nice" when we fight for equal rights."

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Reply
Oom Yaaqub [2013]
"comparing something as stupid as gay marriage to the civil rights movement is disgusting. "

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Reply
Th√łger Emil Rivera-Thorsen [2014]
"+Oom Yaaqub No, it is really very appropriate. And you prove it is necessary."
-snip-
Here's a comment about the song "It isn't Nice" from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4eNH1DEI_E "It Isn't Nice by Malvina Reynolds, sung by Heather Lev"
Steve Suffet, 2007
"OMG! The ghost of Malvina Reynolds has taken possession of your soul. She wrote "It Isn't Nice" about the civil rights movement, but it speaks of the increasing militancy of many struggles. You have captured the essence folk music at its best: that exquisite balance between continuity and change, between the past and the present in an unbroken chain that reaches back decades. even centuries, and which will thus continue forward. And you have added a beautiful voice to the tradition. Bravo!"

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Example #2: It Isn't Nice



Jacob Clary Uploaded on Nov 11, 2009

Barbara Dane and the Chambers Brothers - It Isn't Nice.
-snip-
Selected comments from this sound file's discussion thread:
2009
geezeruser
"beautiful voices, beautiful message"

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nikkizthe1
"awesome harmony by some fabulous singers"

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2010
Michael Schaeffer
"This is a great version, of a "peoples classic', Do people still remeber Medgar Evers? I do, and I hope you never forget either. I wonder if people still sing this song at rallies? I've bee told it isn't nice to sing at rallies anymore."
-snip-
My response to Michael Schaeffer question about singing at rallies is that it's very rare for people to sing at rallies. Instead, they listen to performers sing. I think that unfortunately reflects how singing is regarded in the USA now.

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2016
Matthew Willner
"Sam Cooke like a motherfu&&er*"
-snip-
*That word is fully spelled out in that comment. I take it that that comment means that this version sounds like how Sam Cooke would have sung it.

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Reply
Barbara Dane
"+Matthew Willner You got it! I took Malvina's words and made my own SC-inspired tune to take with me to sing at the Freedom Schools of Mississippi in 1964... The Brothers did a great job of harmonizing too!"
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Since it is capitalized, I assume that "The Brothers" in Barbara Dane's last sentence refers to The Chambers Brothers and isn't a general referent for Black men (as in the brothers at the Freedom Schools of Mississippi in 1064).

Here's some information about Freedom Schools of Mississippi in 1964:
From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_Schools
"Freedom Schools were temporary, alternative free schools for African Americans mostly in the South. They were originally part of a nationwide effort during the Civil Rights Movement to organize African Americans to achieve social, political and economic equality in the United States. The most prominent example of Freedom Schools was in Mississippi during the summer of 1964.

Origins
Despite the Supreme Court's ruling of 1954 in the Brown v. Board of Education case striking down segregated school systems, in the mid-1960s Mississippi still maintained separate and unequal white and "colored" school systems. On average, the state spent $81.66 to educate a white student compared to only $21.77 for a black child.[1] Mississippi was one of only two states in the union that did not have a mandatory education law and many children in rural areas were sent to work in the fields and received little education at all. Even the curriculum was different for white and black. As a typical example, the white school board of Bolivar County mandated that "Neither foreign languages nor civics shall be taught in Negro schools. Nor shall American history from 1860 to 1875 be taught."[2]

In late 1963, Charles Cobb,[3] a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) activist, proposed the organization sponsor a network of Freedom Schools. The concept of Freedom Schools had been utilized by educators and activists prior to the summer of 1964 in Boston, New York, and Prince Edward County, Virginia, where public schools were closed in reaction to the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision or, in the case of Boston, as acts of protest against discriminatory school conditions.[4]"...

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