…In support of

Stopping Gas and Oil Production, Demanding Social Housing, Erecting Tent Cities  and Other Acts of Civil Disobedience…

 

It Isn’t Nice

Notes: words and music by Malvina Reynolds; copyright 1964 Schroder Music Company, renewed 1993. This original version of the song was banned from the radio in Japan–in Japanese, but not in English!
It isn’t nice to block the doorway,
It isn’t nice to go to jail,
There are nicer ways to do it,
But the nice ways always fail.
It isn’t nice, it isn’t nice,
You told us once, you told us twice,
But if that is Freedom’s price,
We don’t mind.

It isn’t nice to carry banners
Or to sit in on the floor,
Or to shout our cry of Freedom
At the hotel and the store.
It isn’t nice, it isn’t nice,
You told us once, you told us twice,
But if that is Freedom’s price,
We don’t mind.

We have tried negotiations
And the three-man picket line,1
Mr. Charlie2 didn’t see us
And he might as well be blind.
Now our new ways aren’t nice
When we deal with men of ice,
But if that is Freedom’s price,
We don’t mind.

How about those years of lynchings
And the shot in Evers’ back?
Did you say it wasn’t proper,
Did you stand upon the track?
You were quiet just like mice,
Now you say we aren’t nice,
And if that is Freedom’s price,
We don’t mind.

It isn’t nice to block the doorway,
It isn’t nice to go to jail,
There are nicer ways to do it
But the nice ways always fail.
It isn’t nice, it isn’t nice,
But thanks for your advice,
Cause if that is Freedom’s price,
We don’t mind.
Malvina Reynolds songbook(s) in which the music to this song appears:
—- The Muse of Parker Street
—- The Malvina Reynolds Songbook

Other place(s) where the music to this song appears:
—- Peter Blood and Annie Patterson: Rise Up Singing: The Group-Singing Song Book [lyrics & guitar chords only] (Bethlehem, PA: Sing Out Corp., 1992)
—- Peter and Annie Blood-Patterson: Winds of the People [lyrics & guitar chords only] (Sing Out, 1980?)
—- Peter Blood-Patterson: Rise Up Singing: The Group-Singing Song Book [lyrics & guitar chords only] (Bethlehem, PA: Sing Out Corp., 1988), p. 61
—- Broadside No. 43 (15 April 1964)
—- Broadside: Songs of Our Times…, Vol. 1 (New York: Oak Publications, 1964), p. 72
—- Guy and Candie Carawan: Sing for Freedom: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Its Songs (Bethlehem, PA: Sing Out Corp., 1990)
—- Sing Out!, Volume 14(6) (1964), p. 17
—- Wanda Willson Whitman: Songs That Changed the World (New York: Crown, 1969)

Malvina Reynolds recording(s) on which this song is performed:
—- Malvina Reynolds
—- Ear to the Ground
—- Malvina Reynolds (2007)
—- Cassandra Records CS-50 (7-inch 45 rpm disc, 1969; flip side “Like the Miller Grinds the Wheat”)
—- listen to youtube.com video

Recordings by other artists on which this song is performed:
—- Kate Boverman and Ethan Miller: Rainy Day Record (2003)
—- Judy Collins: Fifth Album (Elektra EKL-300, 1965)
—- Judy Collins: Her Finest Hour (Pair Records PDL 2-1141, 1986)
—- Barbara Dane: Barbara Dane and the Chambers Brothers (Folkways Records FA 2468, 1966)3
—- Freedom is a Constant Struggle; Songs of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement (Folk Era Productions FE1419CD, 1994)
—- Just-Us: Voices for Life Within the Justice System (Plough Pub. House, 1996)
—- Annie Patterson et al.: Everything Possible; 164 Songs About Community & Change (Sing Out Corp. SO107-SO112, 1991)
—- Cyril Paul: Who Will Love a Little Sparrow? (Sentinel Record Corporation S8-8867, 1968)
—- Simmons Rose and Friends: Listen to the Women for a Change (WILPF, 1991)
—- Jackie Washington: Jackie Washington at Club 47 (Vanguard VSD-79172, 1965)
—- listen to youtube.com video
—- listen to youtube.com video
—- listen to youtube.com video
—- listen to youtube.com video
—- listen to youtube.com video
—- listen to youtube.com video
—- listen to youtube.com video

Additional notes
1. This refers to an injunction limiting pickets to three. Nancy says she now sings “token picket line,” as being less obscure and more gender-inclusive.
2. The Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang defines “Charlie” as “white men regarded as oppressors of blacks.–used contemptuously. Also Mr. Charlie, Boss Charlie.”
3. Barbara Dane in part rewrote the song, adding a chorus; others have also changed or added to the lyrics in various ways over the years. It was Barbara Dane’s alteration that Judy Collins recorded.

 

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