Nina Simone

To Be Young, Gifted and Black

Song Review by

Nina Simone is that rarity, a serious jazz artist who regularly not only recorded pop songs, but also had hit singles. The biggest of these was 1969's "To Be Young, Gifted and Black," which Simone wrote with her new protégé Weldon Irvine, a young jazz musician and composer of musicals, whose haunting lyrics paid tribute to the late playwright Lorraine Hansberry, author of the familiar quote "Though it be a thrilling and marvellous thing to be merely young and gifted in such times, it is doubly so, doubly dynamic - to be young, gifted and black." Simone's setting for Irvine's lyrics has a solemn, hymnal feel, complete with a full gospel chorus and orchestra, but the arrangement also swings in an understated way, filled with tricky syncopations and the canny use of whole rests. The results sound very similar to some of Aretha Franklin's ballad performances, and the Queen of Soul almost immediately paid tribute to Simone's song, recording it on her own 1971 album Young Gifted and Black. Simone had the bigger hit, however, reaching the top of the Billboard R&B charts with this lovely, heartfelt rendition. The oddest rendition, however, has to be the version Elton John recorded in 1970 during his infamous stint recording the vocals on quickie soundalike covers of popular hits, which is available on several collections of these curios.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Nina Simone in Concert 1964 Universal Distribution 6:19
Gifted & Black 1969 Canyon Records 6:21
Songs of the Poets 1976 Edsel
Live at Ronnie Scott's 1984 DRG 2:51
The RCA Records Label: The First Note in Black Music 1992
Various Artists
RCA 2:47
The Essential Nina Simone 1993 RCA 2:45
Tomato Collection 1994 Tomato 4:10
Lady Blue 1997 Charly Records 5:08
Nina Simone [Eagle] 1997 Cleopatra 6:52
The Very Best of Nina Simone: Sugar in My Bowl 1967-1972 1998 RCA 2:50
Nina Simone [Forever Classic] 1998 Forever Classic 6:22
Ain't Got No - I Got Life: In Concert 1998 Remember Records 6:21
Respect: A Century of Women in Music 1999
Various Artists
The Jazz Singers [Jazz World] 1999
Various Artists
Jazz World 6:22
The Great Nina Simone [Goldies] 1999 Goldies 6:21
The Gold Collection: Classic Performances 2000 Retro Music 6:21
Platinum Series 2000 D-3 6:20
Bittersweet: The Very Best of Nina Simone 2000 7-N 2:53
Misunderstood 2000 Recall (UK) 5:10
Say It Loud! A Celebration of Black Music in America [Box Set] 2001
Various Artists
Rhino 2:50
My Baby Just Cares for Me [303 Recordings] 2002 303 Recordings
Emergency Ward!/It Is Finished/Black Gold 2002 MSI Music Distribution / Camden 9:34
Black & Proud 2002
Various Artists
Golden Stars 6:21
Anthology 2003 RCA 2:49
The Nina Simone Story 2003 Charly Records 5:03
The Essential Album 2003 Golden Stars 6:20
Nina Simone Soulful Anthology: RCA Years 2004 BMG
Black Power: Music of a Revolution 2004
Various Artists
Shout! Factory 2:52
Since I Fell for You 2004 BMG Special Products 2:53
The Late Great Nina Simone 2004 Prism Entertainment 4:09
R&B Classics [Sony] 2005
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:49
The Soul of Nina Simone [DualDisc] 2005 RCA/Legacy
36 Essential Recordsings 2005 Union Square Music 5:06
The Definitive Collection 2006 Hip-O / Verve 2:52
Forever Young, Gifted & Black: Songs of Freedom and Spirit 2006 BMG / Sony Music / Sony Music Entertainment
The Very Best of Nina Simone [RCA] 2006 RCA 2:48
No Image 2006 Sony BMG 2:49
The Nina Simone Collection [Metro] 2006 Metro Triples 5:06
Mood Indigo [Charly] 2007 Charly UK 5:03
Change Is Gonna Come: The Voice of Black America 1963-1973 2007
Various Artists
Kent Soul 2:47
Sings Billie Holiday & the Gospel 2007 Snap / Snapper / Charly UK 3:43
Gold [Verve] 2007 Verve 2:54
Strange Soul 2008
Various Artists
Apace/Albion 2:49
To Be Free: The Nina Simone Story 2008 RCA/Legacy 2:50
Angel of the Morning: The Best of Nina Simone 2009 Camden / Sony Music 2:49
Live at Berkeley/Gifted & Black 2009 Snapper 4:14
Playlist: The Very Best of Nina Simone 2009 Legacy / RCA / RCA/Legacy 2:51
Original Album Classics 2009 Sony Music
S.O.U.L. 2011 Sony Music
The Essential Nina Simone 2011 Legacy / RCA 2:49
The Complete RCA Albums Collection 2011 RCA / Sony Music 2:50
The Nina Simone Collection 2011 Camden / Sony Music 2:51
No Image Sony Music Entertainment 2:51
No Image Sony Music 2:47
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