To Be Young, Gifted and Black

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"To Be Young, Gifted and Black"
Song by Nina Simone
from the album Black Gold
RecordedOctober 26, 1969
VenuePhilharmonic Hall, New York City
GenreSoul, blues, gospel
Composer(s)Nina Simone
Lyricist(s)Weldon Irvine
Producer(s)Stroud Productions

"To Be Young, Gifted and Black" is a song by Nina Simone with lyrics by Weldon Irvine. It was written in memory of Simone's late friend Lorraine Hansberry, author of the play A Raisin in the Sun, who had died in 1965 aged 34. The song was originally recorded and released by Simone in 1969. The song was also featured on her 1970 album Black Gold and was considered an anthem of the Civil Rights Movement. Released as a single, it peaked at number eight on the R&B chart and number 76 on the Hot 100.[1]

Notable cover versions of the song were recorded by Donny Hathaway (on his 1970 album Everything Is Everything), Aretha Franklin (on her 1972 album Young, Gifted and Black) and Bob and Marcia (whose 1970 recording reached number 5 in the UK Singles Chart and number 15 in Ireland).[2] Jamaican rocksteady/reggae trio The Heptones recorded a version for Coxsone Dodd's Studio One label in 1970. American singer Meshell Ndegeocello included a version on her 2012 tribute album Pour une Âme Souveraine: A Dedication to Nina Simone.

Elton John recorded a version of "To Be Young, Gifted and Black" prior to his solo success. Intended to be released as a low-budget sound-alike version of the original, it was later reissued on the compilation album Covers as Sung by Elton John.

The song has also become a popular sample amongst various modern R&B/hip-hop pieces, including Rah Digga's 2003 unreleased record "On the Move", Faith Evans' 2014 single "I Deserve It", featuring Missy Elliott and Sharaya J, and on the title track of Rapsody's 2017 album Laila's Wisdom.


  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 528.
  2. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 67. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.