Why? (Am I Treated So Bad)

Album: Why (1965)
Charted: 95


  • This song is about the Little Rock Nine, the first black students to attend the segregated Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas. In 1957, after in accordance with a Supreme Court ruling outlawing segregation, the nine students enrolled at the school. On the first day of school, they were met with angry protests and blocked by the Arkansas National Guard, as ordered by the governor. President Dwight D. Eisenhower responded by sending federal troops to escort the students into the school three weeks later.

    The vitriol the students faced for simply trying to attend an all-white school was shocking, and made national headlines. The incident galvanized the civil rights movement, which drew support from across the nation.

    "Why? (Am I Treated So Bad)" was written by the Staple Singers patriarch Roebuck "Pops" Staples in reaction to the protests.
  • According to Mavis Staples, this song was a favorite of Dr. Martin Luther King.
  • Four different versions of this song made the Hot 100 in 1967. The first version to chart was a live instrumental by Cannonball Adderley, who introduced it as a Staple Singers song and took it to #73 in April. The Staple Singers original was next to chart, reaching #95 in June. In July, the female vocal group The Sweet Inspirations made #57 and Bobby Powell reached #91.


Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

Timothy B. Schmit of the Eagles

Timothy B. Schmit of the EaglesSongwriter Interviews

Did this Eagle come up with the term "Parrothead"? And what is it like playing "Hotel California" for the gazillionth time?

Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum

Dave Pirner of Soul AsylumSongwriter Interviews

Dave explains how the video appropriated the meaning of "Runaway Train," and what he thought of getting parodied by Weird Al.

Glen Burtnik

Glen BurtnikSongwriter Interviews

On Glen's résumé: hit songwriter, Facebook dominator, and member of Styx.

Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull

Ian Anderson of Jethro TullSongwriter Interviews

The flautist frontman talks about touring with Led Zeppelin, his contribution to "Hotel California", and how he may have done the first MTV Unplugged.

Ben Kowalewicz of Billy Talent

Ben Kowalewicz of Billy TalentSongwriter Interviews

The frontman for one of Canada's most well-known punk rock bands talks about his Eddie Vedder encounter, Billy Talent's new album, and the importance of rock and roll.

How The Beatles Crafted Killer Choruses

How The Beatles Crafted Killer ChorusesSong Writing

The author of Help! 100 Songwriting, Recording And Career Tips Used By The Beatles, explains how the group crafted their choruses so effectively.