Woman Is The Nigger Of The World

Woman Is The Nigger Of The World single artwork - John Lennon/Plastic Ono BandWritten by: Lennon-Ono
Recorded: 13 February - 8 March 1972
Producers: John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Phil Spector

Released: 15 September 1972 (UK), 24 April 1972 (US)

John Lennon: vocals, guitar
Wayne 'Tex' Gabriel: electric guitar
Adam Ippolito: piano, organ
Gary Van Scyoc: bass guitar
Stan Bronstein: saxophone
Richard Frank Jr: drums, percussion
Jim Keltner: drums

Available on:
Some Time In New York City
Live In New York City
John Lennon Anthology
Wonsaponatime
Acoustic

Released as a 1972 single and on the album Some Time In New York City, Woman Is The Nigger Of The World was John Lennon's take on feminism and women's rights.

Woman Is the N****r of the World - Sometime In New York City (Remastered)




The next song is one of those many songs of ours that get banned. It's something Yoko said to me in 1968; it took me until 1970 to dig it.
John Lennon
Live In New York City

The phrase had been coined by Yoko Ono during an interview with Nova magazine published in March 1969. The magazine's editors found the comment so striking that they used it on the front cover.

Ono later explained that it had been inspired by the London music scene: "When I went to London and got together with John that was the biggest macho scene imaginable. That's when I made the statement 'woman is the nigger of the world'."

Ono's sentiment was led more by frustration than militancy. By the time she and Lennon had moved to New York City and become engaged in the politics of the New Left, however, the phrase was perfect for their particular brand of sloganeering.

Of course, Yoko was well into liberation before I met her. She'd had to fight her way through a man's world - the art world is completely dominated by men - so she was full of revolutionary zeal when we met. There was never any question about it: we had to have a 50-50 relationship or there was no relationship, I was quick to learn. She did an article about women in Nova more than two years back in which she said, 'Woman is the nigger of the world'.
John Lennon, 1971
Red Mole magazine

Although Ono had tamed Lennon's worst misogynistic excesses, he remained a womaniser throughout much of the 1970s. He was, however, open to new ideologies and possibilities, and female emancipation and equality fitted in with his radical outlook in 1972.

The women are very important too, we can't have a revolution that doesn't involve and liberate women. It's so subtle the way you're taught male superiority. It took me quite a long time to realise that my maleness was cutting off certain areas for Yoko. She's a red hot liberationist and was quick to show me where I was going wrong, even though it seemed to me that I was just acting naturally. That's why I'm always interested to know how people who claim to be radical treat women.
John Lennon, 1971
Red Mole magazine

Before Lennon recorded the song he asked several civil rights activists whether they understood his use of the word 'nigger', and if it would cause offence. Among them was comedian Dick Gregory, who appeared with Lennon and Ono on the 26 October 1972 edition of Jet magazine, underneath the strapline "Ex-Beatle tells how black stars changed his life". Clearly Lennon was prepared to go to great lengths to avoid charges of racism.

Lennon recorded a first demo of Woman Is The Nigger Of The World in the summer of 1969, shortly after the publication of Ono's interview in Nova. However, at this stage it had half-sung lyrics and an ill-formed melody, a far cry from the call to arms that would be released in 1972.

Another home demo was taped towards the end of 1971. It was one of a number of political songs that Lennon was working on at the time, including John Sinclair, Free The People - later recorded as Bring On The Lucie (Freeda Peeple). This recording was later released on the John Lennon Anthology box set and the Acoustic album.

Leave a reply