Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud

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"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)"
Released August 1968 (1968-08)
Format 7" (stereo)
Recorded August 7, 1968, Vox Studios, Los Angeles, CA
Genre Funk
Length
  • 2:45 (Part 1)
  • 2:30 (Part 2)
Label King
6187
Writer(s) James Brown
Producer(s) James Brown
James Brown charting singles chronology
"I Guess I'll Have to Cry, Cry, Cry"
(1968)
"Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud (Part 1)"
(1968)
"Goodbye My Love"
(1968)

"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.[1][2] 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.

"Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud" was Brown's first recording to feature trombonist Fred Wesley.

Lyrics[edit]

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!"[3] The song was recorded in a Los Angeles area suburb with about 30 young people from the Watts and Compton areas.[4]

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.

The song's opening exhortation, "With your bad self", is an example of linguistic reappropriation, and added a new entry to Brown's long list of nicknames: "His Bad Self."

Yet in the book by Dorian Lynsky "33 Revolutions per Minute," it was quite the opposite. The phrase on America's lips by 1968 was Black Power. The NAACP, SNCC, and Black Panther party were in an uproar of his song "Say it Loud." In cases they found to sing the song lies about "America [not being] beneficial to the Black Nation." How the song is up-to-tempo but describing how James Brown uses those words to "harness...his own vision of black self-improvement."

Recognitions[edit]

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.

Personnel[edit]

  • James Brown — lead vocal

with the James Brown Orchestra:

Other versions and uses[edit]

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.

A slightly modified version of the bassline of "Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud" appears in long sections of the track "Yesternow" on the Miles Davis album A Tribute to Jack Johnson.

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".

The song is also referenced in the Temptations song "Message From A Black Man".

"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.

Preceded by
"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)
Succeeded by
"Hey, Western Union Man" by Jerry Butler

References[edit]

  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 84. 
  2. ^ White, Cliff (1991). "Discography". In Star Time (pp. 54–59) [CD booklet]. New York: PolyGram Records.
  3. ^ James Brown interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969).
  4. ^ "Charles Bobbit". Interviews, Roots Of Doo Wop. 2012-06-11. Retrieved 2012-06-11. 
  5. ^ Leeds, Alan, and Harry Weinger (1991). "Star Time: Song by Song". In Star Time (pp. 46–53) [CD booklet]. New York: PolyGram Records.

External links[edit]