Thursday, December 17, 2009

Nina Simone : Four Women

SONG: Four Women

BY: Nina Simone


APPEARS ON: Wild is the Wind (1966)

While I had really good men in my life to shape and guide me, much of who I am can be attributed to the number of strong women around me. They helped shape my character and personality as much as any other factor. I guess that’s why I find African American women of all ages such fascinating creatures. They all seem to have an aura that is a product of carrying a race through struggle. You can even see it in the younger ones that haven’t approached the age to take on this responsibility. There is something about a sister when you look into her eyes that makes me want to find out there she's been and what she's been through. They are all different shades and sizes with different attitudes and personalities. The way they approach life is directly related to their backgrounds and upbringing. Some are soft spoken and choose to speak when necessary. Some are loud and boisterous and everyone knows when they are in the room. Some are emotional and cry quickly for reasons men have problems understanding. Others have grown accustomed to having to be so tough that it's hard for them to show any emotion outwardly even though they feel it deep inside. Some are educated with book knowledge. Others went to the school of hard knocks. Some are outgoing and like to have a good time. Others are reserved and prefer to be alone. I think they are all beautiful in their own way and this song reminds me of that.

Nina Simone recorded the song Four Women in 1966. It was released on the album 'Wild is the Wind'. Ms. Simone sings about the physical and mental design of four different women. They are Aunt Sarah, Safronia, Sweet Thing and Peaches. I don't know this for sure but I am willing to bet that these were not actual women that Nina Simone knew personally. In her description of each person she describes them in a way that explains who they are and why they are the kind of women she is singing about. When I was reading about the song I discovered that some people in the African American community felt the song was drawing on stereotypes. I guess you could feel that way if you took every person described in the song in a literal sense. I think the part that those people missed was the fact that although she described four women with different backgrounds and personalities, the one thing that they have in common is that all of their journeys are connected by our history in America. It's a testament to how our lives and outlook have been shaped over time.

I was late to the discovery of Nina Simone's music. This song was recommended to me by a friend and I have been hooked on it ever since. This remains my favorite song of hers because of the subject matter.


My skin is black
My arms are long
My hair is woolly
My back is strong
Strong enough to take the pain
inflicted again and again
What do they call me
My name is AUNT SARAH
My name is Aunt Sarah

My skin is yellow
My hair is long
Between two worlds
I do belong
My father was rich and white
He forced my mother late one night
What do they call me
My name is SAFFRONIA
My name is Saffronia

My skin is tan
My hair is fine
My hips invite you
my mouth like wine
Whose little girl am I?
Anyone who has money to buy
What do they call me
My name is SWEET THING
My name is Sweet Thing

My skin is brown
my manner is tough
I'll kill the first mother I see
my life has been too rough
I'm awfully bitter these days
because my parents were slaves
What do they call me
My name is PEACHES


  1. This is a pretty great song, with an incredible delivery -- mournful, angry, and filled with regret. I wouldn't accuse the singer of "Mississippi God Damn" of dealing in stereotypes!

  2. Nice song indeed and also timeless