Meaning of “Mississippi Goddam” by Nina Simone
Striped down to its basic definition, Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam” is a protest song. It was written during the height of the Civil Rights Movement in America. It originated from Nina’s frustration due to atrocities that were being committed against her people (African-Americans) during the aforementioned period. In the song, she identifies the state of Mississippi in particular due to it being the place where Medgar Evers was murdered in 1963. FYI, Evers was one of the most prominent figures in the Civil Right Movement.
This track is wrought with sarcasm. For instance, Nina presents it as “a show tune” for a “show (that) hasn’t been written… yet”. She also uses the term “do it slow” throughout the refrain. This is her way of criticizing what she perceived as an overly-tolerant Civil Right Movement.
Ultimately, the sentiments the singer is putting forth are ones in which she is frustrated and discouraged by the plight of her people. And what she actually desires more than anything is for them to achieve equality within the situation they find themselves.
Trivia/Facts about “Mississippi Goddam”
- Nina Simone (1933-2003) considered this to be her “first civil rights song”. In other words, prior to the release of “Mississippi Goddam” in March of 1964, she was known for focusing on other, more-lighthearted content.
- “Mississippi Goddam” was actually banned from being played (on-air) or sold in some parts of the country. And why was this the case? Partially because the word “goddam” was still considered a curse back in the day.
- During an interview in 1986, Simone stated that this track probably had the most-negative impact on her career trajectory than any other she recorded.
- In addition to the murder of Medgar Evers, what also prompted Nina to write this track was the murder of four African-American girls in Alabama on 15 September 1963. The young girls were attending Sunday school when they were brutally murdered.
- Nina reportedly wrote this song in less than an hour.
- This song was recorded during a performance at Carnegie Hall (New York City) in March of 1964. In fact it is featured on the live album Nina Simone in Concert (1964).
- The Library of Congress added “Mississippi Goddam” to the National Recording Registry in March of 2019.