Nina Simone

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1.Introduction 1939. Café Society, New York. A 24 year-old Billie Holiday goes onstage and sings Strange Fruit, a song written by Abel Meeropol, with a heart-wrenching performance that would be considered the beginning of the new protest song. Even though they were common in the South in the form of blues and folk songs, Billie Holiday was the first one to politicize music in a stage and ignited a fire that would continue during the time of the Civil Rights Movement and the #BlackLivesMatter movement, proving the importance of music in the time of change. Focusing on these last two movements, I argue that even though #BlackLivesMatter has been supported by a great number of artists -focusing specially on Beyonce-, the role that music had…show more content…
She was a child musical prodigy that saw her dreams of becoming a classical pianist frustrated by racism and became an eclectic and controversial performer that created awareness of the problem of racism throughout America and Europe and was an active participant of the Civil Rights Movement. In her early years as a performer during the 1950s, she performed in several concerts for Civil Rights organizations, even though she did not consider herself an activist. Her role as an activist begins with her album In Concert, which included songs such as Porgy, Pirate Jenny, Go Limp, or Mississippi Goddam, one of the most famous protest songs of the Civil Rights Movement (from now on, CRM). Nonetheless, her role as an activist was highly controversial, since she was not an advocate for nonviolence or race mixing. In her songs, she urged her listeners to actively fight for liberation. On one of her performances of the song Why? The King of Love Is Dead, a eulogy written by Gene Simone after the murder of Martin Luther King, she tells the crowd that “The time is now! You know the King of Love is dead. I ain´t ‘bout time to be nonviolent, honey!”. Similar expressions of active protesting were delivered in the Harlem Music Festival of 1969, where she ended performance with a poem by David Nelson called Are you Ready, Black People?, which included the lines “Are you ready to…show more content…
As Ruth Feldstein explains, “rejecting any singular definition of African American womanhood was part of the album’s [In Concert] racial politics” (Feldstein 1363). One of the most revolutionary songs of that album, Go Limp, “foregrounded Simone’s alternatively amusing and ironic interweaving of sexual and racial politics” (Feldstein 1364). In this song, a mother makes her daughter promise that she will remain non-violent and a virgin as she leaves to march. However, the woman ends up getting pregnant from one of her fellow marchers, as she follows the advice that the civil rights activists receive of “going limp”. As Feldstein explains, “the young woman (…) agreed go have sex not in spite of her desire of respectability and self-restraint (…). Rather, the sex took place because of the nonviolent civil rights training that the young woman had recieved”. That song represents both a critique to the stigma of female sexuality in African Americans, as the mother asks her daughter not to go to the march “For they'll rock you and roll you/ and shook you into bed. /And if they steal your nuclear secret/ you´ll wish you were dead”. In addition to that, “Simone mocked, but not rejected, the value of passive nonresistance as a means to improve racial relations” (Feldstein 1365). As it was priorly mentioned, this
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