2. “You’ve got to learn to leave the table when love’s no longer being served.”

3. “You can’t help it. An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.”

4. “ has driven the world crazy. And I think I’m lucky that I have a place over here that I can call home.”

5. “I’ll tell you what freedom is to me—no fear. I mean, really, no fear!”

6. “I do not believe in mixing of the races. You can quote me. I don’t believe in it, and I never have. I’ve never changed. I’ve never changed my hair. I’ve never changed my color, I have always been proud of myself, and my fans are proud of me for remaining the way I’ve always been. I married a White man one time, but he was a creep.”

7. “To me, we are the most beautiful creatures in the whole world. Black people. And I mean that in every sense.”

8. “I would like a man now who is rich, and who can give me a boat—a sailboat. I want to own it and let him pay for it. My first love is the sea and water, not music. Music is second.”

9. “I know I’m different, but I don’t think about it.”

10. “All the time, there was the weight of my community’s expectations on my shoulders.”

11. “From the beginning, it has been a no-no for a Black man to touch a White woman.”

12. “You don’t have to live next to me, just give me my equality.”

13. “What kept me sane was knowing that things would change, and it was a question of keeping myself together until they did.”

14. “Anything human can be felt through music, which means that there is no limit to the creating that can be done with music. You can take the same phrase from any song and cut it up so many different ways—it’s infinite. It’s like God—you know?”

15. “Talent is a burden, not a joy. I am not of this planet. I do not come from you. I am not like you.”


16. “This is the world you have made yourself, now you have to live in it.”

17. “I have to constantly re-identify myself to myself, reactivate my own standards, my own convictions about what I’m doing and why.”

18. “I feel what they feel. And people who listen to me know that, and it makes them feel like they’re not alone.”

19. “I’m just human, I have faults like anyone.”

20. “At this crucial time in our lives, when everything is so desperate, when every day is a matter of survival, I don’t think you can help but be involved.”

21. “Did you know that the human voice is the only pure instrument? That it has notes no other instrument has? It’s like being between the keys of a piano.”

22. “I had spent many years pursuing excellence because that is what classical music is all about. Now, it was dedicated to freedom, and that was far more important.”

23. “My love is like the wind and wild is the wind. Give me more than one caress, satisfy my hungriness. Let the wind blow through your heart for wild is the wind.”

24. “I feel more alive now than I ever have in my life. I have a chance to live, as I’ve dreamed.”

25. “I’m a real rebel with a cause.”

26. “As a political weapon, it has helped me for 30 years defend the rights of American Blacks and third-world people all over the world, to defend them with protest songs. To move the audience to make them conscious of what has been done to my people around the world.”

27. “I wish you could know what it means to be me, then you’d see and agree that every man should be free.”

28. “Everything that happened to me as a child involved music. It was part of everyday life, as automatic as breathing.”

29. “I think women play a major part in opening the doors for better understanding around the world.”

30. “Young, gifted, and Black. Oh, what a lovely precious dream.”

31. “I don’t like rap music at all. I don’t think it’s music. It’s just a beat and rapping.”

32. “Music is an art and art has its own rules. And one of them is that you must pay more attention to it than anything else in the world if you are going to be true to yourself. And if you don’t do it—and you are an artist—it punishes you.”

33. “To most White people, jazz means Black, and jazz means dirt, and that’s not what I play. I play Black classical music.”

34. “Sometimes I sound like gravel, and sometimes I sound like coffee and cream.”

35. “I didn’t get interested in music. It was a gift from God.”

36. “What I was interested in was conveying an emotional message, which means using everything you’ve got inside you sometimes to barely make a note, or if you have to strain to sing, you sing.”

37. “Music is as close to God as I know.”

38. “Music is one of the ways by which you can know everything which is going on in the world. You can feel, through music—whew—you can feel the vibrations of everybody in the world at any given moment.”

39. “It’s logical that people from bad times will reflect their feelings in their communication. Music is part of communication. If you lived it, you can do it.”

40. “Through music, you can become sad, joyful, loving, you can learn. You can learn mathematics, touch, pacing—oh my God! Ooh, wow—you can see colors through music. Anything!”

41. “I wasn’t a jazz player, but a classical musician, and I improvised arrangements of popular songs using classical motifs.”

42. “Once I understood Bach’s music, I wanted to be a concert pianist. Bach made me dedicate my life to music, and it was that teacher who introduced me to his world.”

43. “Jazz is not just music, it’s a way of life, it’s a way of being, a way of thinking—the new inventive phrases we make up to describe things—all that to me is jazz just as much as the music we play.”

44. “Jazz is a white term to define Black people. My music is Black classical music.”

45. “I only knew classical music, which to me was the only true music. The only way I could survive at the bar was to mix the classical music with popular songs, and that meant I had to sing.”

46. “Just say I love him loved him from the start and tell him that I’m yearning to say what’s in my heart.”

47. “You don’t know what it’s like to love somebody the way I love you.”

48. “Love me or leave me and let me be lonely, You won’t believe me, but I love you only.”

49. “The look of love is saying so much more than just words could ever say.”

50. “I wanna stay here with you forever.”

51. “A certain kind of light, it’s never shown on me; I want my whole life to be lived with you.”

52. “Lilac wine is sweet and heady, like my love, Lilac wine, I feel unsteady, like my love.”

53. “I flirt all the time. I like men! I don’t think we can do without them.”

54. “I drink much more than I ought to drink because it brings me back you.”

55. “What is love but a prelude to sorrow—with heartache ahead for your goal.”

56. “I’m not a blues singer, I’m a diva.”

57. “When I’m on that stage, I assume honor. I assume compensation, and I should.”

58. “It was always Marx, Lenin, and revolution—real girl’s talk.”

59. “It doesn’t matter to me what is going on today because my music encompasses every kind of mood that exists in human beings. That’s my stick.”

60. “That is why we fly from the inner void, since God might steal into it. It is not the pursuit of pleasure and the aversion for effort which causes sin, but fear of God. We know that we cannot see Him face to face without dying, and we do not want to die.”

61. “There’s no excuse for the young people not knowing who the heroes and heroines are or were.”

62. “It’s a good time for Black people to be alive.”

63. “I was always a politician from the day the civil rights people chose me as their protest singer.”

64. “It is difficult to retain your standards with the pressure of trying to make money, which always has its rules.”

65. “I believe in racial memory too. I’m sure I’ve got ancient African blood in me that has something to do with what I am.”

66. “All I want is equality for my sister, my brother, my people, and me.”

67. “I think the rich are too rich and the poor are too poor. I don’t think the Black people are going to rise at all; I think most of them are going to die.”

68. “Slavery has never been abolished from America’s way of thinking.”

69. “Desegregation is a joke.”

70. “You get racism crossing the street; it’s in the very fabric of American society.”

71. “We have ordered things so long in a certain way, we are numb. Nobody dares question it. This is what is wrong, symbolically, with America.”

72. “I think the rich will eventually have to cave in, too, because the economic situation around the world is not gonna tolerate the United States being on top forever.”

73. “I want to shake people up so bad that when they leave a nightclub where I’ve performed, I just want them to be to pieces.”

74. “I think that the artists who don’t get involved in preaching messages probably are happier—but you see, I have to live with Nina, and that is very difficult.”

75. “My daughter is in more competition with me. I never wanted to be bigger than my mother or to challenge her.”

76. “I came to expect despair every time I set foot in my own country, and I was never disappointed.”

77. “Having as little to do with human beings as possible—in some weird way, I’m at peace.”

78. “You use up everything you’ve got trying to give everybody what they want.”

79. “I think if I were over there in America, protest music would be more important. But I’m not going.”

80. “The way of pocketing your pride, sometimes face humiliation.”

81. “And this old world is a new world, and a bold world.”

82. “How do you explain what it feels like to get on the stage and make poetry that you know sinks into the hearts and souls of people who are unable to express it?”

83. “What happened was that I discovered I had a voice plus the talent to mix classical music together with more popular songs, which at the time, I detested.”

84. “But, I’m just a soul whose intentions are good; oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.”

85. “They don’t know that I’m dead, and my ghost is holding on.”

86. “My people have very subtle slang, inflections, and ways of saying things that have little to do with words. If you’re from the same place, you’ll feel the jargon and know exactly what’s happening. Same with any neighborhood cat. What he sees and hears and feels and lives makes him what he is. That’s what blues is.”

87. “I have a cultured manner of speaking.”

88. “Music is the center of my life.”

89. “I do love to sing Jacques Brel songs, intensely. I get terribly excited, just by reading a couple of lines in any one of his songs.”

90. “I can’t stand loud guitars that make me deaf.”

91. “I love to travel to hear different kinds of music.”

92. “I can read and arrange, but I can’t write.”

93. “As I got older though I wanted a life of my own. The classical training was very demanding and thorough. It was a very sheltered existence. Even though I heard blues and gospel on the radio sometimes, it was always back to the piano and study and give recitals.”

94. “I play piano, by ear. Yes, I write songs—and good ones.”

95. “I love the classics but there are many new ideas to be made into reality. I’d rather be concerned with my own thing. There are many masters of classical piano so I’ll leave it to them.”

96. “I believe the time will come when the whole definition of pop music will change. It will get to the point where a song will not be a good song until it has a high level of creativity in writing and performance. In other words, in order to be popular, songs will have to meet these high standards.”

97. “When a child is gifted, people try to help that child.”

98. “I had heard blues and jazz all my life but I was never aware that it was associated with nightclubs and drinking.”

99. “If I want to take a particular form of blues somewhere else I have the equipment to do it but I never even thought of it.”

100. “The allusion was that I was actually naked. I loved that. It always kind of shocked people enough that they became mine immediately.”

101. “Theory and harmony broadened my mind in music. I know what music is made of.”

102. “There are all kinds of things that can be done. You can change rhythms, you can change chords, you can change whole concepts. But it will only work, on a record or in a performance, if you can make the people buy it.”

103. “I’m a nut for Bach as a composer.”

104. “I was reared in the church from the age of three. I’ve played piano since I was three. I performed at revivals and for my people around North Carolina for several years. People around town collected money to send me to school.”

105. “That’s a very high goal to have, study eight hours a day to be a concert pianist.”

106. “When I choose material for an album all these songs I grew up with pour into my head.”

107. “The pressure of show business is on all the time and show business is a fickle business. Whatever is popular now—that’s all that counts.”

108. “When I was studying, there weren’t any Black concert pianists. My choices were intuitive, and I had the technique to do it. People have heard my music and heard the classic in it, so I have become known as a Black classical pianist.”

109. “If I get an idea I put it on tape and somebody else writes it out.”

110. “The worst thing about that kind of prejudice—is that while you feel hurt and angry and all the rest of it, it feeds you self-doubt. You start thinking, perhaps I am not good enough.”

111. “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day—and I’m feeling good.”

112. “Many times I feel different like a different person.”

113. “This may be a dream, but I’ll say it anyway: I was supposed to be married last year, and I bought a gown. When I meet , I shall put on this gown and have the train of it removed and put aside, and kiss the ground that he walks on and then kiss his feet.”

114. “My singing, if you want to call it that, is merely another medium of expression. Just an instrument I play. That’s how I see my voice.”

115. “Funk, gospel, blues is all out of slavery times, out of depression, out of sorrow.”

116. “The Beatles are lucky, very lucky. But, what has happened to them has nothing to do with them, in a sense. They came along at the right time. Attention was focused on them. They’ve had the chance to grow in almost any direction they wanted. Very lucky. They are not exceptionally talented.”

117. “I look forward to doing my own show, not someone else’s. That’s always been my dream.”

118. “It’s time to take a look at my failures and stop calling them successes. Now, I can start working at something that can use me best.”

119. “I applied for a scholarship to Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. I knew I was good enough, but they turned me down. And it took me about six months to realize it was because I was Black. I never really got over that jolt of racism at the time.”

120. “Tomorrow, I might be in a different mood and you wouldn’t recognize my voice.”

121. “I’m sorry that I did not become the world’s first Black classic pianist. I think I would have been happier.”

122. “I am particular about the seating of the audience—also about how much money they pay—but most of all where they are seated. If I am going to sing something intimate, who am I going to sing it to?”

123. “By the time I was eight I was taking classical piano lessons and I wanted to be a concert pianist. But, that didn’t work out. I graduated from high school and my formal education ended.”

124. “I don’t mind without food or sleep as long as I’m doing something worthwhile to me such as this.”

125. “Music is a gift and a burden I’ve had since I can remember who I was.”

126. “I don’t like to go to strange places. I was in Italy for about five hours on my way to Africa.”

127. “I would like you to know, I am a doctor of music.”

128. “I was not reluctant to become a singer. Singing has been an activity I’ve done my whole life, without thought.”

129. “Since I was three I’ve been playing the piano. I’ve been on stage. My mother is an Evangelist and I used to play the piano at her revival meetings.”

130. “It is a fact that I don’t get enough love, I never did get enough love.”

131. “I don’t like drug addicts and she sounds like a cat.”

132. “I demand perfection in what I do, and I practice very hard before I give a concert-sometimes three to six hours a day.”

133. “If jazz survives and is put on a pedestal as an art form, the same as classical music has been through the years, a hundred years from now the kids will know who they were, with that kind of respect.”

134. “My job is not done. I address my songs now to the third world. I am popular all over Asia and Africa and the Middle East, not to speak of South Africa, where I’m trying to go to see Nelson Mandela.”

135. “As far as piano players are concerned, Oscar Peterson is my very favorite. I also like McCoy Tyner. I think that the big jazz stars, both now and in the past—how shall I say it? These guys are as great as Bach, Beethoven; all of them. People don’t know it yet.”

136. “I am just one of the people who is sick of the social order, sick of the establishment, sick to my soul of it all. To me, America’s society is nothing but a , and it must be exposed before it can be cured. I am not the doctor to cure it. All I can do is expose the sickness.”

137. “It’s hard to walk the tightrope of doing what you think is your best and making money at it.”

138. “I try to swim every damn day I can, and I’ve learned to scuba dive and snorkel.”

139. “Birds flying high, you know how I feel. Sun in the sky, you know how I feel. Breeze driftin’ on by, you know how I feel.” 

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