“To Be Young, Gifted and Black” by Nina Simone
Striped down to its most-basic element, this is a Black empowerment song. And the specific purpose of the track is to increase the self-confidence and positively inspire the global outlook of Black children. The way the lyrics go about doing this is by presenting them as being “gifted”, as in notable talent being a common occurrence amongst “young… Black” people. And thus they should not only ‘open their hearts’ to this idea but also realize that having these qualities is “a lovely precious dream”.
This song was written during the Civil Rights Movement. It was during that time that prominent African-Americans were conscientiously trying to undo the effects of centuries’ long racism against their people. And one of the ways they went about doing so was by attempting to raise the self-esteem of Black people in general. And this is one of the songs from that era, which best encapsulate that determination.
Facts about Nina Simone’s “To Be Young, Gifted and Black”
- “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” was written by poet Weldon Irvine and produced by Andy Stroud. Nina Simone didn’t write this song.
- Irvine penned it as a tribute to author Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965), who was not only a friend of Simone but actually coined the phrase “young, gifted and Black” when referring to a group of students she was addressing.
- Being originally released as a single in 1969, Nina Simone later included “Young, Gifted and Black” on her 1970 album Black Gold, which was published by RCA records. It reached a position of number 76 on the Billboard Hot 100 but fared much better on its R&B chart, peaking at number 8.
- This track has been covered by a number of artists such as Aretha Franklin, Donny Hathaway, Elton John and Bob & Marcia.