‘ a boy was born in hard time Mississippi, surrounded by four walls that ain’t so pretty’



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Why did Stevie Wonder write the song ‘Livin for the City’?

By Chloie
‘Livin for the City’ was written and composed by Stevie Wonder in 1973. Jonny Lang performed ‘Livin for the City’ as a tribute to Wonder in 2004. A live version appears on his 2003 album ‘Long time Coming’.

In the first verse the line A boy was born in hard time Mississippi, surrounded by four walls that ain’t so pretty’ are saying that a lot of black people are just being able to afford to buy a house or a small flat while working in hard time Mississippi . The lines, ‘His parents give him love and affection to keep him strong moving in the right in the right direction’ says to me that the boys parents are giving him love and caring for him to keep him going to school and maybe even collage if he gets a scholarship or his parents can afford to let him go.

In the second verse the words state ‘His father works some days for fourteen hours, and you can bet he barely makes a dollar’ means that black people are working hours on end just to get themselves and their families through the gruelling days and barely get paid or probably not getting paid legally. His mother goes to scrub the flours for many, And you’d best believe she hardly gets a penny’ means the same as the lines ‘His father works for fourteen hours and you can bet he barely makes a dollar’ A lot of black people are barely making a dollar or a penny or a nickel for that matter, because of their race and the colour of their skin.

In the third verse it says His sisters black but she is sho’nuff pretty, her skirt is short but lord her legs are sturdy’ means the little boys sister is going to school and not all black people are ugly as some people think. At the moment she’s sturdy in her life and not wagging school ‘To walk to school she’s got to get up early’ means that she lives so far away because her parents can’t afford to live closer so she has to get up early to go to school. The next line ‘Her clothes are old but never are they dirty’ could mean a number of things like her job is to wash clothes and she also washes her own or her mother has a job as a clothes washer or she studies or reads at breaks or her school simply doesn’t have breaks.


Her brothers smart, he’s got more sense than many , his patience long but soon he won’t have any’ implies that black people can be smart and can have more common sense and can be more responsible than a white person. ‘His patience long but soon he won’t have any’ means that this boy is waiting and waiting for a job vacancy and has been waiting for a while and soon he won’t have any patience to keep waiting and he won’t get proper job. ‘To find a job is like a haystack needle , cause where he lives they don’t use black people says that to find a job as a black person in places like Mississippi is like finding a needle in a haystack or a needle in a hay maze. Cause where he lives they don’t use black people’ proves that companies and businesses discriminate against black people again because of their race and the colour of their skin.
At the end of each verse the repetitive lines ‘Livin just enough, just enough for the city’ is trying to drill into your head that black people are getting paid just enough to live in/near the city.

The repetitive line in the chorus ‘Livin just enough…. for the city…ooh…ooh’ is still trying to drill into your head that black people are living JUST enough for the city. They may not even live in the city and as the third verse says ‘To walk to school she’s got to get up early’ implies that her family lives very far away from the city schools.




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