Sunday, January 9, 2011

"To Zion" - Lauryn Hill

Arguably the centerpiece of one of popular music's essential records (The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, 1998), "To Zion" is a love song to a young child (Zion was Hill's first, with Bob Marley's son Rohan), blending gospel, soul, reggae, and hip-hop to create one of pop's most life-affirming anthems. It combines a meditation on the private wonder and fear of motherhood -- "overwhelmed," "I've never been in love like this before" -- with the ecstatic sense of liberation and celebration in the chorus and the closing call-and-response. "To Zion" would certainly fit with any maternal-focused activism. Progressive Christian and Jewish activists might also be drawn to it. Any demonstration for maternal/maternity rights and health would be an ideal venue for it. Relatedly, while it is not my politics to say the least, if I were an anti-abortion activist, I would be all over this song like a rash.

Unsure of what the balance held
I touched my belly overwhelmed
By what I had been chosen to perform
But then an angel came one day
Told me to kneel down and pray
For unto me a man child would be born
Woe this crazy circumstance
I knew his life deserved a chance
But everybody told me to be smart
Look at your career they said,
"Lauryn, baby use your head"
But instead I chose to use my heart

Now the joy of my world is in Zion
Now the joy of my world is in Zion

How beautiful if nothing more
Than to wait at Zion's door
I've never been in love like this before
Now let me pray to keep you from
The perils that will surely come
See life for you my prince has just begun
And I thank you for choosing me
To come through unto life to be
A beautiful reflection of his grace
See I know that a gift so great
Is only one God could create
And I'm reminded every time I see your face
That the joy of my world is in Zion

Now the joy of my world is in Zion ...
Marching, marching, marching to Zion ...
Beautiful, beautiful Zion

Here's the original recording of "To Zion," set to amateur video:


Lauryn with Carlos Santana (who also plays on the studio recording), performing "To Zion" at the Grammy Awards in 1999:


Other Resources

Thanks to Dave Korzinski for suggesting this song.

Available on The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998), track 4.



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