Woman Is the Nigger of the World
|"Woman Is the Nigger of the World"|
|Single by John Lennon|
|from the album Some Time in New York City|
|B-side||"Sisters, O Sisters" (Yoko Ono)|
|Released||24 April 1972|
|Recorded||November 1971–March 1972 at Record Plant East, New York City|
|Writer(s)||John Lennon, Yoko Ono|
|Producer(s)||John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Phil Spector|
|John Lennon singles chronology|
"Woman Is the Nigger of the World" is a song written by John Lennon and Yoko Ono from their 1972 album Some Time in New York City. Released as a single in the United States, the song sparked controversy at the time due to its title and subject matter.
The phrase "woman is the nigger of the world" was coined by Yoko Ono in an interview with Nova magazine in 1969 and was quoted on the magazine's cover. The song describes women's subservience to men and male chauvinism across all cultures.
In a 1972 interview on The Dick Cavett Show, John Lennon stated that Irish revolutionary James Connolly was an inspiration for the song. Lennon cited Connolly's statement "the female worker is the slave of the slave" in explaining the pro-feminist inspiration behind the song.
Release and reception
Due to its use of an offensive racial epithet and what was perceived as an inappropriate comparison of women's rights to the oppression of African-Americans, most radio stations in the US declined to play the record. It was released in the US on 24 April 1972 and peaked at number 57 on the Billboard Hot 100, based primarily on sales, making it Lennon's lowest charting US single released in his lifetime. The song also charted at number 93 on the Cashbox Top 100.
Response to criticism
Through radio and television interviews, Lennon explained his use of the term "nigger" as referring to any oppressed person. Apple Records placed an advertisement for the single in the 6 May issue of Billboard magazine featuring a recent statement, unrelated to the song, by prominent black Congressman Ron Dellums to demonstrate the broader use of the term. Lennon also referred to the Dellums quote during an appearance on The Dick Cavett Show, where he and Ono performed the song with the band Elephant's Memory. Because of the controversial title, ABC asked Cavett to apologise to the audience in advance for the song's content, otherwise the performance would not have been shown.
Lennon also visited the offices of Ebony and Jet magazines with comedian/activist Dick Gregory and appeared in a cover story titled "Ex-Beatle Tells How Black Stars Changed His Life" in the 26 October 1972 issue of Jet.
An edited version of the song was included on the 1975 compilation album Shaved Fish. The song was reissued as the B-side to "Stand by Me" on 4 April 1977. It was also included on Working Class Hero: The Definitive Lennon and the Gimme Some Truth box set.
Personnel on the single and Some Time in New York City recording are:
- John Lennon – vocals, guitar
- Stan Bronstein – saxophone
- Gary Van Scyoc – bass
- Adam Ippolito – piano, organ
- Wayne "Tex" Gabriel - guitar
- Richard Frank Jr. - drums, percussion
- Jim Keltner - drums
- Television interview, 11 May 1972. The Dick Cavett Show: John and Yoko collection [video recording] DVD, 2005. ISBN 0-7389-3357-0.
- Hilburn, Robert. "New Disc Controversy" Los Angeles Times April 22, 1972: B6
- Miles, Barry; Badman, Keith, ed. (2001). The Beatles Diary After the Break-Up: 1970–2001 (reprint ed.). London: Music Sales Group. ISBN 978-0-7119-8307-6.
- Duston, Anne. "Lennon, Ono 45 Controversial" Billboard 17 June 1972: 65
- Blaney, John (2005). John Lennon: Listen to This Book (illustrated ed.). [S.l.]: Paper Jukebox. p. 326. ISBN 978-0-9544528-1-0.
- Johnston, Laurie. "Women's Group to Observe Rights Day Here Today" New York Times 25 August 1972: 40
- Blaney, John (2005). "1973 to 1975: The Lost Weekend Starts Here". John Lennon: Listen to This Book (illustrated ed.). [S.l.]: Paper Jukebox. p. 168. ISBN 978-0-9544528-1-0.
- Blaney, J. (2007). Lennon and McCartney: together alone : a critical discography of their solo work. Jawbone Press. pp. 60–62. ISBN 978-1-906002-02-2.