Friday, January 06, 2017

Four Women

Four Women
Nina Simone
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

[...] It was 1966, and Nina Simone was angry. 

Frustrated at the slow progress of the civil rights movement, the negative self-image of many women around her, and the daily hardships of being a black woman, the brilliant piano-playing songstress penned "Four Women," a song that tells four stories of archetypal black women: Aunt Sarah, Saffronia, Sweet Thing and Peaches. 

Each has a different skin tone and each lives at a different point in history. The song's spitting tone gives you the feeling that it's burning at both ends, the work of a woman who is fed up with history—but what does "Four Women" tell us about the present?[...]

[...]African-American female archetypes

The first of the four women described in the song is "Aunt Sarah" a character who represents African-American enslavement. Nina Simone's description of the woman emphasizes the strong and resilient aspects of her race, "strong enough to take the pain" as well as the long-term suffering her race has had to endure, "inflicted again and again".
The second woman who appears in the song is dubbed "Safronia", a woman of mixed race ("my skin is yellow") forced to live "between two worlds". She is portrayed as an oppressed woman and her story is once again used to highlight the suffering of the black race at the hands of white people in positions of power ("My father was rich and white/He forced my mother late one night").
The third woman is that of a prostitute referred to as "Sweet Thing". She finds acceptance with both black and white people, not only because "my hair is fine", but also because she provides sexual gratification ("Whose little girl am I?/Anyone who has money to buy").
The fourth and final woman is very tough, embittered by the generations of oppression and suffering endured by her people ("I'm awfully bitter these days/'cause my parents were slaves"). Simone finally unveils the woman's name after a dramatic finale during which she screams, "My name is Peaches!" [...]


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