Listen above to Kim Nalley (UC Berkeley) discuss two of Nina Simone’s iconic songs “Mississippi Goddamn” (1964) and “Why (The King of Love Is Dead)” (1968) with Professor Rhae Lynn Barnes (Princeton University)

Primary Sources

Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddamn” (1964)

Nina Simone’s Why (The King of Love Is Dead) (1968)



  1. Now that you have an understanding of Nina Simone’s larger historical context, read the lyrics to both songs slowly. Can you pinpoint which Civil Rights events, struggles, and problems are being alluded to in each verse?
  2. What social issues are being addressed in these songs? What connections can you make to our own historical context?
  3. Compare and contrast the mood and tone in both songs. How is that being conveyed through sound?
  4. What literary or rhetorical devices can you identify in these songs like similes, metaphors, or rhetorical questions?


Kim Nalley is a world-renowned jazz and blues musician and a Ph.D. Candidate in History at the University of California, Berkeley.

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