Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)
In a Nutshell
"Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)" is just as funky and infectious as any tune James Brown ever sang; we dare you to try to listen without bobbing your head and tapping your feet. Can't be done!
But the song was also – more of a rarity for the Godfather of Soul – deeply political. "Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)" was almost a revolutionary statement in 1968, and one laced with more than a little bit of irony. Brown said he recorded the tune as a kind of children's song, hoping to instill pride in the younger generation. But many whites heard it only as militant and angry, costing Brown a good chunk of his interracial crossover audience. And those kids happily shouting out the chorus, "I'm black and I'm proud"? In another ironic twist, most of them were actually white or Asian schoolchildren.
James Brown himself quickly lost interest in the song, pulling it from his normal concert repertoire within a couple years of its release; by the 1980s, he called it "obsolete." But in its moment "Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud") may have been the most important song James Brown ever recorded.
About the Song
||Musician(s)||James Brown (vocals), Clyde Stubblefield (drums), Charles Sherrell (bass), Jimmy Nolen (guitar), Alfred "Pee Wee" Ellis (saxophone), Maceo Parker (saxophone), St. Clair Pinckney (saxophone), Waymond Reed (trumpet), Richard "Kush" Griffith (trumpet), Fred Wesley (trombone), unknown children (chorus)
|Album||"Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)" Was Originally Released as a Single|
|Writer(s)||James Brown, Alfred Ellis|
Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
1968 was a tough year in America. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. The Tet Offensive convinced many that the Vietnam War
had gone badly off the rails. Rioting erupted
in cities across America. All the hope that had motivated young people through the early Civil Rights Movement
and the John F. Kennedy
era seemed to be crashing down in a destructive orgy of frustration, disillusionment, and violence. The 1960s
, which had started with such promise, seemed headed for a bad end.
Into the breach stepped James Brown. The Hardest Working Man in Show Business, normally apolitical in his songwriting material, released "Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)," perhaps the definitive statement of a new pride and consciousness in the younger generation. If the Black Power Era
had a soundtrack, this song would surely have been its lead single.
On the Charts
"Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)" held the #1 spot on the US R&B charts for six weeks in 1968.
The song also peaked at #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included "Say It Loud" on its list of 500 songs that shaped Rock and Roll.
The song ranks #305 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.