It's Your Thing
|"It's Your Thing"|
|Single by The Isley Brothers|
|from the album It's Our Thing|
|Released||February 16, 1969|
|Recorded||A&R Studios, New York; January 1969|
O'Kelly Isley, Jr.
|Producer(s)||The Isley Brothers|
|The Isley Brothers singles chronology|
"It's Your Thing" is a funk single by the Isley Brothers. Released in 1969, the funk anthem was an artistic response to Motown chief Berry Gordy's demanding hold on his artists after the Isleys left the label in late-1968.
The lyrics of the chorus (which also serve as first verse lyrics) read: "It's your thing/Do what you wanna do/I can't tell you/Who to sock it to". The song is ranked #420 on the Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
After scoring one popular hit with the label with "This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)", the Isleys felt typecast in the role as a second-tier act while well-established Detroit acts like The Temptations, The Miracles and the Four Tops got more promotion from the label Motown.
The brothers' decision to leave Motown came after a successful UK tour, where the brothers had a bigger fanbase than in America. A re-release of "This Old Heart" had reached number three on the UK pop singles chart. Similar success came with two more singles from their Motown catalog that were hits well after their Motown departure.
Berry Gordy allowed the brothers to leave the label, and the Isleys reactivated their own label, T-Neck Records, which they had originally started a few years prior to their Motown signing. For Buddah Records, the Isleys recorded "It's Your Thing" which Ronald wrote upon arriving home after taking his daughter Tawana to school. The lead singer said that he thought of the melody and some of the lyrics in his head. His older brothers O'Kelly and Rudolph helped compose more lyrics.
Release and reaction
Recorded in two takes and featuring the first appearance of 16-year-old Ernie on bass, the song was released as a single on February 16, 1969, and quickly rose to the top of both the Billboard pop and R&B singles charts, peaking at #2 on the former and marking their first #1 hit in the latter. Upon the song's release and ascent to success, Gordy threatened to sue the group for releasing it in an attempt to bring them back to Motown, but he eventually cancelled his threat, and in February 1970 the brothers became the first former Motown act to win a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.
Cover versions and legacy
Over 60 artists have recorded their own version of the song. A version was recorded by Memphis soul singer Ann Peebles and saxophonist Lou Donaldson recorded an instrumental version on his 1969 album Hot Dog. The song has been credited for being one of the first full-fledged funk songs around the same time as artists like James Brown and Sly & the Family Stone brought their own funk anthems to the scene. Brown interpolated the melody in his 1974 song "My Thang". Brown used the musical background from the song for the songs "It's My Thing (You Can't Tell Me Who To Sock It To)", an answer song by Marva Whitney, and Brown's own 1974 single, "My Thang".
The Temptations in 1969 recorded It's Your Thing on the Puzzle People album. Not yet established Jackson 5, who first performed the song at their television debut on the Miss Black America Pageant, later recording it during sessions for their ABC album. (It is not listed as a track on the album.) Aretha Franklin recorded the song for her album Jump to It (1982). Former Motown label-mates The Supremes and The Four Tops recorded a duet version in 1971 that remained unreleased until 2009.
The song also has been heavily sampled by hip hop acts, most famously by rap group Salt 'N' Pepa and DC go-go band E.U., who sampled it for "Shake Your Thang" (1988). Like many of their earlier singles, the song has been featured in commercials. Some Canadian commercials for the Ramada hotel chain have featured a cover version of "It's Your Thing", modified so the lyrics say "Do Your Thing" instead.
Lou Donaldson's cover has also been sampled in multiple, mostly hip-hop, tracks, including Ghetto Red Hot by Super Cat, Punks Jump Up to Get Beat Down by Brand Nubian, Bitties in the BK Lounge by De La Soul and Six Million Ways to Die by Funkmaster Flex.
The 1988/89 album All or Nothing/Girl You Know It's True by Milli Vanilli also contained a cover of this song.
The song has a very similar feel and chord structure to Adriano Celentano's "Prisencolinensinainciusol", which was released 3 years later.
- Lead vocals by Ronald Isley
- Background vocals by O'Kelly Isley, Jr. and Rudolph Isley
- Written, arranged and composed by Ronald Isley, O'Kelly Isley, Jr. and Rudolph Isley
- Produced by The Isley Brothers
- Drums by George Moreland
- Bass by Ernie Isley
- Guitar by Charles "Skip" Pitts
- Piano by Herb Rooney
- Saxophone and arrangement by George Patterson
- Horns arranged by The Isley Brothers
"Only the Strong Survive" by Jerry Butler
|Billboard Hot R&B Singles number-one single
April 19, 1969 – May 10, 1969
"The Chokin' Kind" by Joe Simon