Study Guide

Four Women

Four Women Introduction

In a Nutshell

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?

About the Song

ArtistSimone, Nina
Year1966
LabelPhilips
Writer(s)Nina Simone
Producer(s)Hal Mooney
Musician(s)Nina Simone (vocals, piano)
AlbumWild Is the Wind

Music Video

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Influences on Simone, Nina

Billie Holiday
Bessie Smith
Marian Anderson
Bach
Chopin
Beethoven
Liszt
Debussy

Influenced by Simone, Nina

Mary J. Blige
Alicia Keys
India Arie
Nora Jones
John Lennon
Marlon Riggs
Peter Gabriel
Tony Banks
Aretha Franklin
Richie Havens
Sade
Beth Waters

Four Women Resources

Books

David Brun-Lambert, Nina Simone: The Biography (2009)
A detailed new biography of the late musician.

Nadine Cohodas, Princess Noire: The Tumultuous Reign of Nina Simone (2010)
The author tapped into new sources to write the latest and greatest Nina Simone retrospective.

Nina Simone and Stephen Cleary, I Put A Spell On You: The Autobiography of Nina Simone (1991)
An honest record of Simone's early life and rise to stardom.

Albums

Wild Is the Wind (1966)
Like many of Simone's albums, it was met with mixed reviews, but "Four Women" would become the iconic track from this one.

Best of Nina Simone (1990)
This album contains all the most famous Nina Simone tunes in one place.

Four Women: Nina Simone Philips Recordings (2003)
This is a four-album box set named for the famous song.

Reflection Eternal, Train of Thought (2000)
Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek collaborate on the critically acclaimed album that contains "For Women."

Reflection Eternal, Revolutions Per Minute (2010)
Ten years later, the duo is back for more—and it may be even better than the first album.

Images

Reflection Eternal, Train of Thought Cover Art
Kweli and Hi-Tek go artsy on this album cover.

Four Ninas
It is what it sounds like…it's Nina, four times.

Movies & TV

Nina (2016)
This biopic starring Zoe Saldana follows the star's life and her windy relationship with manager Clifton Henderson. 

Nina Simone Live (2005)
This 60-minute film offers a rare view of Nina Simone performing live in 1961 and 1962.

Websites

Nina Simone's Official Site
This is a simple site maintained by the late singer's estate.

The Nina Simone Database
This unofficial site contains an extensive biography, a list of books about Nina Simone, and a section of interesting concert reviews from late in Simone's life.

Talib Kweli Review, The Beautiful Struggle
Here, you'll read about Nina Simone's influence on Talib Kweli's music.

Nina Simone's Interview in Exile
Simone gave an interview to Details Magazine in 1997 that shows her every bit as tough as her Black Power era self—and perhaps even a bit more bitter.

Video & Audio

Nina Simone, "Four Women"
Here's the song of the hour, brought to you by Nina Simone (and YouTube).

Talib Kweli, "For Women"
Listen to Reflection Eternal's evocative remake.

Talib Kweli, "Get By" Music Video
Get a taste of Kweli's strong performance style.

"To Be Free" Podcast on Nina Simone
In the third part of this podcast series, Simone's daughter talks about how her mother became an activist.