Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud
|"Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud (Part 1)"|
The Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud album
|Single by James Brown|
|from the album A Soulful Christmas and Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud|
|B-side||"Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud (Part 2)"|
|Recorded||August 7, 1968, Vox Studios, Los Angeles, CA|
|James Brown charting singles chronology|
"Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud" is a funk song written and recorded by James Brown in 1968. It was released as a two-part single which held the number-one spot on the R&B singles chart for six weeks, and peaked at number ten on the Billboard Hot 100. Both parts of the single were later included on James Brown's 1968 album A Soulful Christmas and on his 1969 album sharing the title of the song. The song became an unofficial anthem of the Black Power movement.
In the song, Brown addresses the prejudice towards blacks in America, and the need for black empowerment. He proclaims that "we demands a chance to do thangs for ourself/we're tired of beating our head against the wall/and workin' for someone else". The song's call-and-response chorus is performed by a group of young children, who respond to Brown's command of "Say it loud" with "I'm black and I'm proud!" The song was recorded in a Los Angeles area suburb with about 30 young people from the Watts and Compton areas.
The lyrics "We've been 'buked and we've been scorned/We've been treated bad, talked about as sure as you're born" in the first verse of the song paraphrase the spiritual "I've Been 'Buked".
Several other Brown singles from the same era as "Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud", notably "I Don't Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door, I'll Get It Myself)", explored similar themes of black empowerment and self-reliance.
Place in Brown's repertoire
"Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud" was an immediate and massive hit for Brown. It became a highlight of his concerts, where arena crowds would shout out the "I'm black and I'm proud" response section. However, within a year of the release of the studio recording it had largely disappeared from Brown's concert repertoire, as he was concerned with how its message was being interpreted. In his 1986 autobiography Brown wrote:
The song is obsolete now... But it was necessary to teach pride then, and I think the song did a lot of good for a lot of people... People called "Black and Proud" militant and angry—maybe because of the line about dying on your feet instead of living on your knees. But really, if you listen to it, it sounds like a children's song. That's why I had children in it, so children who heard it could grow up feeling pride... The song cost me a lot of my crossover audience. The racial makeup at my concerts was mostly black after that. I don't regret it, though, even if it was misunderstood.
Live recordings of "Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud" are included on the albums Motherlode (1988) and Say It Live and Loud: Live in Dallas 08.26.68 (1998). Brown also performed the song at he request of Don Cornelius during a 1970s appearance on Soul Train.
Some versions of the King 45 feature an embarrassing typographical error on the B side, rendering the title "Say It Loud-I'm Black But I'm Proud"(Goldmine Standard Catalog of American Records, 7th edition). This may seem a minor difference, but it is one that implies a subtle, semantic degradation of the song's powerful message. It might be impossible to ever determine if this was an honest mistake, or an intentional slight from someone at the label's pressing outlet.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included "Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud" as one of their 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. In 2004 it was ranked number 305 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. It inspired the title of a VH1 television special and box set, Say It Loud! A Celebration of Black Music in America.
- James Brown — lead vocal
with the James Brown Orchestra:
- Waymond Reed — trumpet
- Richard "Kush" Griffith — trumpet
- Fred Wesley — trombone
- Alfred "Pee Wee" Ellis — alto saxophone
- Maceo Parker — tenor saxophone
- St. Clair Pinckney — baritone saxophone
- Jimmy Nolen — Electric guitar & guitar
- Charles Sherrell — bass
- Clyde Stubblefield — Drums
- Unknown children's chorus
Other versions and uses
Numerous hip hop musicians and groups have sampled "Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud", including Eric B. and Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, LL Cool J and 2 Live Crew in the states and Akil Ammar for the Mexican underground scene.
A few performers have recorded cover versions of the song, including jazz saxophonist Lou Donaldson (on his 1969 album Say It Loud!), reggae singer Bob Marley (in a medley with "Black Progress") and the punk rock band Black Randy And The Metrosquad.
Jazz pianist Jaki Byard recites the title phrase at the onset of "Parisian Thoroughfare", the opening track of his album The Jaki Byard Experience. However, the recitation is only audible when the track is played at a high volume.
The song is referenced in an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, inspired by Black Power protests, Will, the African-American male lead attempts to hold a protest (ironically, Will and his cousin Carlton are the only black people in the room) to get a popular teacher reinstated, he inspires "Cornflake", a white fellow student, who stands up and shouts passionately "Fight the Power Will! Sing it loud, I'm black and I'm proud", to which Will replies "See, my man Conflake's got the spirit. He's a little confused but he's got the spirit".
"Let's Take it to the Stage" by Funkadelic gives a nod to this song with the lyric "Say it loud, I'm funky and I'm proud."
R&B/Rock artist Meshell Ndegeocello covers the song during her live performances.
"You're All I Need to Get By" by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
|Billboard Hot R&B Singles number-one single
October 5, 1968 – November 9, 1968 (six weeks)
"Hey, Western Union Man" by Jerry Butler
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 84.
- White, Cliff (1991). "Discography". In Star Time (pp. 54–59) [CD booklet]. New York: PolyGram Records.
- James Brown interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969).
- "Charles Bobbit". Interviews, Roots Of Doo Wop. 2012-06-11. Retrieved 2012-06-11.
- Brown, James, with Bruce Tucker. James Brown: The Godfather of Soul (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company,1986), 200.
- Leeds, Alan, and Harry Weinger (1991). "Star Time: Song by Song". In Star Time (pp. 46–53) [CD booklet]. New York: PolyGram Records.