Pirate Jenny

Album: Nina Simone in Concert (1964)
  • This haunting number originated as a song from the first act of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's 1928 musical The Threepenny Opera about a prostitute who has been bribed to turn her former lover Macheath (aka Mack the Knife) in to the police. As she contemplates having his fate in her hands, a pirate ship ("the black freighter"), which she has been expecting, enters the harbor. After its cannons flatten every building except hers, Jenny sails away with the pirates. In the original German the song is titled "Seeräuberjenny."
  • Many notable artists have covered this song including Steeleye Span, Ute Lemper and Judy Collins. Possibly the best known cover was by singer and activist Nina Simone, in which she gave the song a civil rights undertone, with the "black freighter" a metaphor for the coming black revolution.
  • In Alan Moore's comic book series Watchmen, the narrative is intertwined with that of another story, a fictional horror-filled pirate comic titled Tales of the Black Freighter, which one of the characters reads. Moore has cited this song as one of the inspirations for the comic-within-the-comic.
  • Simone told Blues & Soul she once sang this song in concert with such intensity that it took her "five years to recover."


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