Blog, SLS

Song Lyric Sunday – Nina Simone


Welcome back to Song Lyric Sunday. I took a break last Sunday, but I am back this week to share one of my favorite songs, especially because the prompt this week was my suggestion. Jim’s description of the prompt is:

This week we have another prompt that is very different, that being using a song that features a contrast in it.  This prompt was suggested by Maggie From Cave Walls and she said that she will be showing up “with the proverbial bells on – in contrasting colors of course!”  Everybody needs to look for a song that features lyrics that include stuff like females and males, loud vs. silent, wet vs. dry, or hot vs. cold, Coke vs. Pepsi, war and peace, love and hate, bad and good or the Moon and Sun.  I think this will be fun for everyone.


Nina Simone was born in a small town in North Carolina and it just so happens to be the town in which we bought our retirement home. There is area downtown which houses a statue of her (photos at the end of the post). Recently, the house she was born in made the news when four artists pulled together the money to buy the house and it is now in the process of being restored and preserved.

Nina Simone started her music career in the Methodist churches where her mother was a minister. The song “Sinnerman” was often played urging members of the congregation to confess their sins and be saved.

“Sinnerman” or “Sinner Man” is an African American spiritual that seems to have derived from the lyrics of different songs over the course of time. The song is about trying to hide from our transgressions. It is the contrast between good and evil, heaven and hell — the temptations many have struggled with.

“Sinner Man” was first recorded in 1956 by the Les Baxter orchestra. The lead vocals performed by Will Holt, a talented singer/lyricist from Portland, Maine. On this recording, Holt is credited along with Baxter for writing the song, but that has been disputed. It has been recorded throughout the years by many different artists.

I chose to feature Nina Simone’s version. Ms. Eunice Kathleen Wayman was born in the town where I now live. She was a trained classical pianist and spent the summer of 1950 training at Juilliard preparing for application to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. She was turned down feeling as if she was rejected because of her race. She began playing piano at the Midnight Bar & Grill in Atlantic City, NJ to help her pay for private classical lessons. There she was told she would also be required to sing. She changed her name to Nina Simone to hide what she was doing from her mother who would never approve of her playing this type of music.  (The contrast of good music and the devil’s music.)

Given the state of civil rights in our country today, I wanted to pay homage to her early voice in support of the Civil Rights Movement. (At one of her early concerts at the age of 12, her parents were made to sit in the back because they were black. She stood and said she refused to play if her parents (both ministers) could not sit in the front row.)

She wrote “Mississippi Goddam” in protest of the murder of Medgar Evers snd the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church where four young African American girls were killed. In 2019, the song was song was chosen by the Library of Congress to be included in the National Recording Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

Nina Simone was diagnosed with bipolar disorder (contrasting periods of extreme highs and extreme lows) and she could be difficult to work with. She was bold and brash and opinionated based on the interviews I watched with her. She lived much of her life outside of the country because of the way black people were treated in this country and because of the way she felt the recording industry tried to take advantage of her.  There is so much about her that I could not do justice to. She led a fascinating and sometimes difficult life.

Sinnerman
Lyrics from songmeanings.com

Oh, sinnerman, where you gonna run to?
Sinnerman where you gonna run to?
Where you gonna run to?
All on that day
We got to run to the rock
Please hide me, I run to the rock
Please hide me, run to the rock
Please hide here
All on that day
But the rock cried out
I can’t hide you, the rock cried out
I can’t hide you, the rock cried out
I ain’t gonna hide you there
All on that day
I said rock
What’s the matter with you rock?
Don’t you see I need you, rock?
Good Lord, Lord
All on that day
So I run to the river
It was bleedin’, I run to the sea
It was bleedin’, I run to the sea
It was bleedin’, all on that day
So I run to the river
It was boilin’, I run to the sea
It was boilin’, I run to the sea
It was boilin’, all on that day

So I run to the Lord
Please hide me, Lord
Don’t you see me prayin’?
Don’t you see me down here prayin’?
But the Lord said
Go to the Devil, the Lord said
Go to the Devil
He said go to the Devil
All on that day
So I ran to the Devil
He was waitin’, I ran to the Devil
He was waitin’, ran to the Devil
He was waitin’, all on that day
I cried, power, power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Kingdom (power, Lord)
Kingdom (power, Lord)
Kingdom (power, Lord)
Kingdom (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)

Oh yeah
Oh yeah
Oh yeah
Well, I run to the river
It was boilin’, I run to the sea
It was boilin’, I run to the sea
It was boilin’, all on that day
So I ran to the Lord
I said Lord, hide me
Please hide me
Please help me, all on that day
He said, hide?
Where were you?
When you oughta have been prayin’
I said Lord, Lord
Hear me prayin’, Lord, Lord
Hear me prayin’, Lord, Lord
Hear me prayin’, all on that day
Sinnerman, you oughta be prayin’
Outghta be prayin’, sinnerman
Oughta be prayin’, all on that day

Up come power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
(Power, Lord)
Hold down (power, Lord)
Go down (power, Lord)
Kingdom (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Power (power, Lord)
Na-na-na, na-na-na-na
Na-na-na, na-na-na-na
Na-na-na, na-na-na-na

Woah, ho
Ha-ha-ha-ha
Ha-ha-ha-ha, oh Lord
Nu, nu, nu
No-no-no-no, ma-na-na-na-na, don’t you know I need you Lord?
Don’t you know that I need you?
Don’t you know that I need you?

Oh, Lord
Wait
Oh, Lord
Oh, Lord, Lord

Interview with Nina Simone

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Why not join in on this Sunday blogging ritual. Head over to Jim Adams blog to check out the rules and read some of the great responses to the weekly prompt.