I borrowed these lines from the song “Four Women,” a biographical sketch of four negro women growing up in segregationist America. Nina Simone wrote this haunting ballad in 1966 in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, two years before the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Spell-binding, compelling and at times scathing and foreboding, the songstress was dubbed the “High Priestess of Soul” for her imposing stage presence and readiness to use her music to take on social injustice.
Nina Simone embarked on her musical journey at a time when racial tension in America was coming to a boil and the country could no longer turn a blind eye to the widespread oppression and violence against black Americans. In “Mississippi Goddam,” she responded to the 1963 Birmingham church bombing, one of the watershed events in the Roaring Sixties, and hinted at the radical approach of seeking a separate black state. The political underpinning of her music alone, to say nothing of her talent, was enough to make Nina Simone one of my favorite singers/songwriters of all times.
My father always promised meThat we would live in FranceWe’d go boating on the SeineAnd I would learn to dance…And I live in Paris nowMy children dance and singWords of a miner’s tongueLanguage they have never sungI sail my memories of homeLike boats across the SeineAnd watch my father’s eye, watch the setting sunAs it sets in my father's eyes again