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
B-side"Be Thankful for What You Got, Part 2"
ReleasedMarch 1974[1]
  • 7:12 (album version)
  • 3:25 (single edit)
LabelRoxbury Records
Songwriter(s)William DeVaughn
Producer(s)Frank Fioravanti, John Davis

"Be Thankful for What You Got" (also noted in some publications as "Be Thankful For What You've Got") is a soul song written and first performed by William DeVaughn. The record sold nearly two million copies on its release in spring of 1974, reaching #1 on the U.S. R&B charts and #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In 2021, it was listed at No. 374 on Rolling Stone's "Top 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[2]

The song is noted for its repeated line: "Diamond in the back, sunroof top, diggin' the scene with a gangsta lean", which has been sampled and interpolated in many songs.


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 it under a development agreement, under which an artist will record a few initial demos or tracks where, if successfully approved, the company may reserve the right to extend the arrangement to Omega Sound, a Philadelphia production house, and release the song.

The session featured members of the MFSB group — guitarist Norman Harris, drummer Earl Young, bassist Rusty Jackman, vibist Vince Montana and conga player Larry Washington — secured by Allan Felder, who also developed the separate ad lib back-up chorus with his sister's vocal choir. John Davis provided the electric Keyboard. Frank Fioravanti then secured the song's release on the Roxbury Records record label, run by producer-songwriter Wes Farrell.

With a sound and content influenced by Curtis Mayfield (and often erroneously attributed to him),[3] 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.

Chart history[edit]

1980 remake[edit]

In 1980, DeVaughn recorded a remake, on his second album, Figures Can't Calculate, that hit #83 on the dance chart and #44 on the UK singles chart.[12]

Later uses[edit]

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

The song's refrain "Diamond in the back, sunroof top, diggin' the scene with a gangsta lean" has been referenced, sampled and/or interpolated in the following songs:


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.[14]

"Be Thankful for What You've Got"
Single by Lipbone Redding
from the album Science of Bootyism EP
ReleasedApril 21, 2009
6:12 (long version)
Songwriter(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, Beautiful Flying Records. The EP contains two versions of the song.

Other covers[edit]

Other artists who have covered the song include:


  1. ^ "Record Details". 45cat. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  2. ^ "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2021-09-15. Retrieved 2022-07-05.
  3. ^ Curtis Mayfield - Diamond in the Back, archived from the original on 2021-12-12, retrieved 2021-07-19
  4. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". 1974-07-27. Retrieved 2019-11-28.
  5. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". 1974-07-13. Retrieved 2019-11-28.
  6. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 152. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  7. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  8. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles, July 6, 1974
  9. ^ Canada, Library and Archives (January 16, 2018). "Image : RPM Weekly". Library and Archives Canada.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 28, 1974
  12. ^ The Life and Music of William DeVaughn, retrieved 2022-02-04
  13. ^ "N.W.A – Gangsta Gangsta Lyrics". Genius. Retrieved 20 August 2021.
  14. ^ Massive Attack - Massive Attack E.P. at Discogs
  15. ^ "Be Thankful". Archived from the original on 2011-05-13.


  • 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.

External links[edit]