LYRIC OF THE WEEK: Nina Simone, “Mississippi Goddam”

[caption id="attachment_154704" align="aligncenter" width="615"] photo by Ron Kroon.[/caption]//// So what's the secret to writing a great protest song? Well, you need to have the talent to elucidate some pressing issue with insight and ingenuity. A little idiosyncrasy goes a long way as well, since that can deflate some of the earnestness that often sinks music ripped from the headlines. The main ingredient, however, would have to be the fearlessness to present the material in such a way that can seem bracing or even discomforting to those in the audience. In that way, the artist can assure themselves of being heard. Nina Simone checked off all of these boxes when she wrote “Mississippi Goddam,” as scathing an indictment of black-white inequality that has ever been penned. She then added to the song’s embarrassment of riches by giving it one of her most indelible performances, a stunning 1964 live take in New York City that not only captured her unconcealed disgust and withering sarcasm but also inadvertently revealed the effect the song would have on audiences unprepared for that kind of candor. The ironic thing is that Simone had originally balked at recording topical material until the assassination of Civil Rights leader Medgar…

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