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On the Saddest Song Ever Written, “Why (The King of Love is Dead)”

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tags: music, Martin Luther King Jr., Nina Simone, African American culture



 

Nina Simone sang it. Gene Taylor, her bassist, wrote it. It’s been called “the saddest song ever written.“  Written in the immediate aftermath of the killing of Martin Luther King, it’s called “Why (The King of Love Is Dead).” 

One of the most staggering aspects of the power of song is when an old song can resound so powerfully in our current moment. This song, and Nina Simone’s chilling performance of it, reflects the desperation and rage of America in April of 1968. Tragically, it speaks to this American moment just as powerfully, if not more so.

After MLK was shot and died, riots raged in more than 100 American cities. Never have there been riots and looting and burning across all of America to that extent until now. Here in this sad June of 2020,  protests and riots broke out in all fifty states, ignited by the anger over the public killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.

Nina Simone performed it only three days past the assassination on April 7, 1968, at the Westbury Music Fair on Long Island in New York. In an impassioned, epic performance of almost fifteen minutes, delivered in a voice weakened by rage and sorrow, she spoke, she sang, she sermonized, and prayed for the hatred to end. Her words are a tragic reminder that in more than fifty years since that night, systemic racism in this country persists. 

“We can’t afford any more losses,” she said with words that could be spoken today. .”They’re killing us one by one… .” 

Read entire article at American Songwriter

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