There was a producer, the husband of [actress] Leslie Caron. He wanted
to make a movie where he would give ten minutes to these artists – people
like Van Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, me – to do anything we wanted. It never
got made. But I had this idea of a slave ship and a sea shanty – this guy standing
in a clearing, singing to a crowd of natives. These people in my songs don't
know they're bad. They think they're fine. I didn't just want to say,
"Slavery is awful." It's too easy. I wasn't doing Roots. I knew Bobby Darin pretty well.
He covered this [in 1972], but he was such a musical guy that he missed the
point. He was like, "Little one, come to America." Etta James did it,
and I guarantee she knew what it was about, absolutely.