Be Thankful for What You Got

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"Be Thankful for What You Got"
Single by William DeVaughn
from the album Be Thankful for What You Got
Released 1974
Recorded 1972
Genre Soul
Length 7:12
Label Roxbury Records
Writer(s) William DeVaughn
Producer(s) Frank Fioravanti /John Davis

"Be Thankful for What You Got" is a soul song written and first performed by William DeVaughn.

History[edit]

DeVaughn wrote "A Cadillac Don't Come Easy" eventually re-written to become "Be Thankful for What You Got" in 1972, and spent $900 toward its development[vague] to Omega Sound [A Philadelphia production house]. The producers at Omega [Frank Fioravanti and sax player/ MFSB session group member, John Davis] decided to go for a strong groove with a smooth, almost jazzy arrangement, eventually booking time to record at Sigma Sound Studio in Philadelphia.

The session featured members of the MFSB group — guitarist Norman Harris, drummer Earl Young, bassist Ron Baker, and vibist Vince Montana — secured by Allan Felder, who also developed the separate ad lib back-up chorus with his sister's vocal choir.[citation needed] Frank Fioravanti could have released the record on the company's own label Sound Gems, but it was just starting out and instead secured its release on the Roxbury Records record label, run by producer-songwriter Wes Farrell.

The record sold nearly two million copies on its release in spring 1974, reaching #1 on the U.S. R&B charts and #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[1] With a sound and content influenced by Curtis Mayfield (and often erroneously attributed to him), its simple and encouraging lyrics hit home, to the extent that it became featured on gospel radio stations.

The edited version, which is the first part of the song, became a hit. The other half of the song is a longer instrumental with the repeated chords and rhythm before the final chorus comes in. The song is seven minutes long and radio stations preferred the sung portions over the instrumental portions.

Though you may not drive a great big Cadillac

Gangsta whitewalls, TV antennas in the back
You may not have a car at all
But remember brothers and sisters
You can still stand tall
Just be thankful for what you got.
Diamond in the back, sunroof top

Diggin' the scene with a gangsta lean

DeVaughn's second album Figures Can't Calculate (TEC, 1980) included a remake.

The song was covered in 1974 by Arthur Lee and Love on their Reel to Real album; Reggae versions were done by Donovan Carless in 1974, Bunny Clarke (produced by Lee "Scratch" Perry) in 1975,[2] and by Winston Curtis in 1984 (on World International Records); in 1991 by the British trip-hop band Massive Attack on their album Blue Lines and by Peter Blakeley as the opening theme for the movie The Taking of Beverly Hills, by Yo La Tengo on its 1997 "Little Honda" EP and by Lawrence "Lipbone" Redding on his 2009 Science of Bootyism album.

The song has been sampled several times, such as by N.W.A in "Gangsta Gangsta", Ludacris in "Diamond in the Back" & Ice Cube in "Stand Tall". In the song "Still Fly" by Big Tymers the last verse contains a line which makes reference to an 'old-school Caddy with a diamond in the back' and imitates DeVaughn's higher tone.

The song is featured in the films Bug (2002), Be Cool (2005) and La Mission (2010).

The song is referenced in the Rihanna song "Shut Up and Drive (Rihanna song)", with the phrase: "I'm a fine-tuned super-sonic speed machine, with a sunroof top and a gangsta lean."

The song is referenced in the Parliament-Funkadelic song "P. Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)", with the lyric: "Gangster lean; Y'all should dig my sun-roof top."

The song was also referenced in the late guitarist Gabor Szabo's 1976 song, "Keep Smiling," except the "diamond in the back" lyric was changed to "digging the scene with a Philly lean," possibly referring to the song's co-author and producer (and Vaughn's Philadelphia International Records label-mate) Bunny Sigler.

Preceded by
"I'm in Love" by Aretha Franklin
Billboard Hot Soul Singles number one single
June 1, 1974
Succeeded by
"Hollywood Swinging" by Kool & the Gang

Massive Attack version[edit]

Massive Attack's cover version, retitled "Be Thankful for What You've Got", was featured on their 1991 debut album Blue Lines. A music video was produced for the song; however, it was not released as a stand-alone commercial single. Instead, a remix by Paul Oakenfold was also included on their 1992 single release Massive Attack EP.[3]

Massive Attack EP track listing[edit]

  1. "Hymn of the Big Wheel" (Nellee Hooper Remix) – 4:47
  2. "Home of the Whale" – 4:02
  3. "Be Thankful for What You've Got" (Paul Oakenfold Remix) – 4:36
  4. "Any Love" (Larry Heard Remix) – 4:27
"Be Thankful for What You've Got"
Single by Lipbone Redding
from the album Science of Bootyism EP
Released April 21, 2009
Format CD
Genre Soul
Length 5:10; long version 6:12
Writer(s) William DeVaughn
Producer(s) Jeff Eyrich for Lipbone Redding

Lipbone Redding version[edit]

Lawrence "Lipbone" Redding's cover version, "Be Thankful for What You Got", appeared on his 2009 EP Lipbone Redding and the LipBone Orchestra: Science of Bootyism, BePop Records. The EP contains two versions of the song.

Science of Bootyism EP track listing[edit]

  1. "The Land of Drunk and Stoned" – 4:24
  2. "Sweet Melinda" – 4:56
  3. "Be Thankful for What You Got" – 5:10
  4. "Old Tattoo" – 4:58
  5. "Ghetto Girl (Downtown Deep Ghetto Mix") - 7:00
  6. "Ghetto Girl (Uptown Slum Club Mix)" - 5:51
  7. "Be Thankful for What You Got" (long version) - 6:12

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Chart positions and sales figure: Nathan.
  2. ^ "Be Thankful". 
  3. ^ Massive Attack - Massive Attack E.P. at Discogs

Sources[edit]

  • Nathan, David. Notes for William DeVaughn: Be Thankful for What You Got: A Golden Classics Edition. Collectables [sic] CD COL-5271. Collectables [sic] Record Corp., 1994.