It's the tail end of Black History Month and I can't help but think of the many great tunes that came out of the civil rights movement in the 60's. Am I Black Enough For You, Give More Power to The People, We're A Winner, Be Real Black For Me, & of course Say It Loud - I'm Black And I'm Proud just to name a few. But there is one that always stands out to me: Nina Simone's To Be Young, Gifted & Black released in 1969.
Nina Simone: To Be Young, Gifted & BlackCo-written with musician Weldon Irvine, Y, G & B was an homage to Nina's friend playwright Lorraine Hansberry (Raisin In The Sun) but soon became an anthem to express the pride in the achievements of African-Americans. Being a white kid from the 1970's suburbs, this song certainly wasn't written to speak to me, but I think anyone can see how empowering this song is. Nina Simone was one of a kind and you'll be hearing a lot of her around here. Her fragile, wavering voice backed by the small but strong choir really tells the story.
Donny Hathaway: To Be Young, Gifted & Black
Donny Hathaway was a true master of soul with a voice that flows over the listener like warm molasses. Most well known for his duets with Roberta Flack, Donny ultimately proved to be a tragic figure in music commiting suicide in 1979. Here is his cover of Ms. Nina's song from 1970's Everything Is Everything.
Bob & Marcia: Young, Gifted & Black
Bob & Marcia's version also from 1970 was the first that I ever heard and has quite a different feel. Still just as powerful, it has a much more upbeat and celebratory vibe. Bob Andy & Marcia Griffiths were both well known reggae stars when their rendition of Young, Gifted & Black hit the UK Top Ten. Here's another bit of trivia for you, Marcia later joined Bob Marley's backup singers The I-Threes.