Inspirational Gem: Nina Simone – Ain’t Got No, I Got Life

I was listening to some Nina Simone songs seeing how many I knew. I knew more songs than I thought, I just never knew she was the one singing them. I don’t know where I hear songs but I hear them and I know them and then years later I find out who sang them. Maybe I just have a good memory for songs so when I hear one once I never forget it.

One of the songs I listened to was this one (see title of post) and I decided I was going to write about it as it’s so uplifting.

Talking about the song musically I like how the music starts off melancholy and fits the initial mood of the song. As she sings the instrumental builds and adds tension as if she’s fighting the negativity. Then the music bursts as she discovers what she does have!

Talking about the song and how it affected me personally when the song first starts it’s a bit depressing. I wasn’t in that great of a mood when I started listening to it and so I thought to myself, “Wow this fits my mood a little too well”. But then as I listened to it I realised it was the best song to listen to when in such a mood as it really lifts you out of it. It’s like, “You don’t have this but you have life don’t you?”

I found it interesting how some of the things she listed not having were similar to each other, like “ain’t got no man” and “ain’t got no love”. It reminded me of how sometimes we fixate on something we don’t have and list again in a different way but really it’s the same problem. Also in the version I listened to she sometimes lists things twice. Then she got to this part in the song where she’s like:

Hey, what have I got?
Why am I alive , anyway?
Yeah, what have I got
Nobody can take away?

Aren’t those great questions? What have I got? What can nobody take away from me? I mean they can be very simple things but you still have them and they’re reason enough to be thankful. I mean she lists hair, liver, fingers and toes, freedom and life! Life.

It’s very easy to think about the things that you don’t have and to count them off and to get depressed about it. This song reminded me that in times like those it is good to counter that negative part of your mind and ask, “What do I have?” What do I have to be thankful about and you may surprise yourself by how much you do have.

I felt like this song had a duality to it too. I feel like sometimes people who are racist look down on black people and think we have nothing when actually we have a whole lot that people can’t take away from us. We’re intelligent, vibrant and creative people. So when Nina Simone was singing this and in the video that I watched I felt like she was telling them, “I have a whole lot actually so there’s no need for you to feel sorry for me or to look down on me.” This may be me reading too much into it but that’s what I got.

I love the song and I highly recommend that you listen to this inspirational gem!

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