I have always loved this song and love how it fits so beautifully in Nina Simone’s voice. “The Other Woman,” written by Jessie Mae Robinson, has a special contemporary resonance as we all work to come to terms with the results of our recent presidential election. Hillary might be seen as the “other woman” but, to me, this song resonates in our current climate because it is a poignant narrative of otherness and how we deal with our bitterness towards outsiders of any type.
Competition between women in our culture can be brutal and a woman’s rivalry with her man’s lover can be especially bitter. Rivals in love are sworn enemies and feelings of betrayal run deep. The discovery of an affair is not a time for empathy and sisterly connection. To the contrary, the hurt deepens with our feelings that “the other woman is perfect where her rival fails.” Our emotional connection with our rivals is weak and Simone’s rendering of this song ends on a note that challenges us to find empathy no matter how much it hurts: the “lonesome queen…will end her life alone.” Surely we can all find some compassion and understanding for such loneliness.
The Trump presidency is a time for this sort of understanding. In politics compassion is a rare commodity, however, this song moves me to find love for “the other” in my life. We will all be better served if we connect rather than disconnect. This sort of understanding is difficult yet fundamental to a fully lived life. Nina Simone sings of what is true, deep and real. She gives voice to our inner fears and self doubts that we project onto others. We are all better off for finding the compassion that allows us to connect with “The Other Woman” in our lives.
“The Other Woman,” Nina Simone at Town Hall, 1959