Saturday Sample Sessions 004: Nina Simone – Four Women

"Four Women" is continually hailed as Nina Simone's fearless portrayal of the societal injustice and long suffering of African American's in the US throughout history.

Nina Simone – “Four Women

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
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
And my manner is tough
I’ll kill the first mother I see
My life has to been rough
I’m awfully bitter these days
Because my parents were slaves
What do they call me
My name is PEACHES


Originally released on her 1966 LP, Wild Is The Wind, “Four Women” is continually hailed as Nina Simone‘s fearless portrayal of the societal injustice and long suffering of African Americans in the US throughout history and rightly so. It remains as a staunch, open and honest heroic poem, set to the tune of stark piano strains that Nina seemed to wrench from her beloved instrument with the same passion that her rich contralto voice bellowed the sparse but powerful lyrics.

A beautiful piece of art to be enjoyed and reflected upon, yet it saddens me that initially the song was marred by the ugliness of confused racist minds, during that time period, for being too frank and up front about injuries and abuses, past and present. Before it could truly make an impact upon the world she birthed it into, the song was banned from several major radio stations upon it’s release.

While traveling home the other night, I decided to revisit Reflection Eternal‘s first long player and undoubtedly best received work, “Train Of Thought“. As I often do when I re-listen to an album, I immediately play the tracks that I know for certain are “instant vintage“, well…at least to my mind. As I geared up to happily recite “This Means You” verbatim, for some reason, my thumb had other plans and strayed too close to the back skip button on the player and I found myself surprisingly listening to the album’s “Outro” instead. Pleasant surprise it turned out to be as I was reminded of Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek’s semi-hidden track, “For Women“.

The song is a phenomenal interpretation of Simone’s as it greatly showcases Hi-Tek’s unique sampling prowess for snatching the merest semblances of Nina’s piano riffs and backing violins to masterfully construct the audio. But what is truly amazing to me is Talib’s lyrical dexterity, as he verbally samples strategic parts of Nina’s lyrics and then expands and expounds upon them to give the listener more back story on each character, yet still supremely paying homage to the original.


Reflection Eternal – “For Women

Yea, so we got this tune called “For Women” right. Originally, it was by Nina Simone. She said it was inspired by, you know, “Down South“.  In the south, they used to call her Mother “Auntie“. She said no “Mrs.”…just Auntie.
She said if anybody ever called her Auntie, she’d burn the whole goddamn place down. I’m over past that. Coming into the new millenium, we can’t forget our elders.

I got off the 2 train in Brooklyn, on my way to a session / Said let me help this woman up the stairs before I get to steppin’ / We got in a conversation, she said she a 107, just her presence was a blessing and her essence was a lesson.  She had her head wrapped and long dreads that peeked out the back, like antenna to help her get a sense of where she was at / Imagine that, Livin’ a century, the strength of her memories, felt like an angel had been sent to me  / She lived from “Nigger” to “Colored” to “Negro” to “Black”, to “Afro” then “African-American” and right back to “Nigger” / You figure she’d be bitter in the twilight but she alright, ’cause she done seen the circle of life / Yo, her skin was black like it was packed with melanin, back in the days of slaves she packin’ like Harriet Tubman  / And her arms are long and she moves like song, feet with corns, hand with callouses but her heart is warm  / And her hair is woolly and it attract a lot of energy, even negative, she gotta dead that the head wrap is her remedy / Her back is strong and she far from a vagabond, this is the back of the masters’ whip used to crack upon / Strong enough to take all the pain, that’s been inflicted again and again and again and again and flipped it, to the love for her children, nothing else matters / What do they call her? They call her Aunt Sarah.

I know a girl with a name as beautiful as the rain, her face is the same but she suffers an unusual pain / Seems she only deals with losers who be usin’ them games, chasin’ the real brothers away like she confused in the brain / She tried to get it where she fit in, on that American Dream mission, paid tuition for the receipt to find out her history was missing and started flippin’ / Seeing the world through very different eyes, people askin’ her what she’ll do when it comes time to chose sides / Yo, her skin is yellow, it’s like her face is blond, word is bond and her hair is long and straight just like sleeping beauty / See, she truly feels like she belong in two worlds and that she can’t relate to other girls / Her father was rich and white still livin’ with his wife but he forced himself on her mother late one night / They call it rape, that’s right and now she take flight through life with hate and spite inside her mind, that keep her up to the break of light a lot of times / (I gotta find myself) (3X’s) / She had to remind herself / They called her Saffronia, the unwanted seed, blood still blue in her vein and still red when she bleeds / (Don’t, don’t, don’t hurt me again) (8X’s)

Teenage lovers sit on the stoops up in Harlem / Holdin’ hands under the Apollo marquis dreamin’ of stardom / Since they was born, the streets is watchin’ and schemin’ and now it got them generations facin’ diseases / That don’t kill you, they just got problems and complications that get you first / Yo, it’s getting worse, when children hide the fact that they pregnant ’cause they scared of giving birth / How will I feed this baby? How will I survive, how will this baby shine? / Daddy dead from crack in ’85, Mommy dead from AIDS in ’89 / At 14, the baby hit the same streets, they became her master, the children of the enslaved, they grow a little faster / They bodies become adult, while they keepin’ the thoughts of a child / Her arrival into womanhood was hemmed up by her survival / Now she 25, barely grown, out her own, doin’ whatever it takes, strippin’, workin’ out on the block, up on the phone / Talkin’ about..

My skin is tan like the front of your hand and my hair…well my hair’s alright. Whatever way I want to fix it, it’s alright. It’s fine but my hips, these sweet hips of mine, invite you daddy and when I fix my lips, my mouth is like wine. Take a sip, don’t be shy. Tonight I wanna be your lady, I ain’t too good for your Mercedes, but first you got to pay me. You better quit with all the question, sugar. Who’s little girl am I? Why I’m yours, if you got enough money to buy. You better stop with the compliments, we running out of time. You wanna talk or whatever. We could do that, it’s your dime. From Harlem’s from where I came, don’t worry about my name. Up on 125, they call me Sweet Thang.”

A daughter come up in Georgia, ripe and ready to plant seeds, left the plantation when she saw a sign even thought she can’t read / It came from God and when life get hard she always speak to him, she’d rather kill her babies than let the master get to ’em / She on the run up north to get across that Mason-Dixon, in church she learned how to be patient and keep wishin’ / The promise of eternal life after death, for those that God bless, she swears the next baby she’ll have, will breathe a free breath and get milk from a free breast / And love being alive, otherwise they’ll have to give up being themselves to survive / Being maids, cleaning ladies maybe teachers or college graduates, nurses, housewives, prostitutes, and drug addicts / Some will grow to be old women, some will die before they born, they’ll be mothers and lovers who inspire and make songs…

But me, my skin is brown and my manner is tough, like the love I give my babies when the rainbow’s enough. I’ll kill the first muthafucka that mess with me, I never bluff. I ain’t got time to lie, my life has been much too rough.  Still running with bare feet, I ain’t got nothin’ but my soul. Freedom is the ultimate goal. Life and death is small on the whole, in many ways, I’m awfully bitter these days. Cause the only parents God gave me, they were slaves and it crippled me. I got the destiny of a casualty but I live through my babies and I change my reality. Maybe one day I’ll ride back to Georgia on a train, folks ’round there call me PeachesI guess that’s my name.”

For more info about Nina Simone and her musical legacy, visit the links below…

Twitter | Facebook | Official | N.S. Database

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