‘Why you wanna fly Blackbird
You ain’t ever gonna fly’
The first time I heard the beautiful sounds of Nina Simone’s “Blackbird” was when I watched India Jean-Jacque and Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s sorrowful rendition in the film “Beyond the Lights” and I was taken with it. Released in the 1960’s, Simone accompanied the song simply with her soulful and hauntingly beautiful alto voice and the simple touch of drums (bongo, I presume), aiming to portray the struggles of black women at the time they faced harsh race, class and gender oppression, which today is known as intersectionality. At that time black Americans, in general, were humiliated and discriminated against.
The following first two lines of the 1st verse allude to the incomparable pain a black woman felt and/or feels.
‘No place big enough for holding
All the tears you’re gonna cry’
It carries on with the following darker lyrics with melancholic feelings of a sad past. In terms of black lives, it refers to their lives originally beginning with miserable sufferings, stopping someone from ever experiencing happiness.
‘Cause your mama’s name was lonely
And your daddy’s name was pain
And he called you little sorrow
Cus you’ll never love again’
The 2nd verse, after a repeat of the chorus is a good representation of Black lives today in that they are once again mistreated and unwanted. It refers to a person who desires to climb to their full potential, but is unfortunately held back by self-doubt from a hateful society.
‘You ain’t got no one to hold you
You ain’t got no one to care
If you’d only understand dear
Nobody wants you anywhere’
The simplicity of the song itself goes back to a day unlike today, with the use of few instruments and simply vocalized with Simone’s legendary soulful touch. It gained my attention for the main fact that it’s an artist using their musical platform to bring attention to and express the sufferings of a group of people with the use of lyrics anyone can identify with.