Zero in on the lyrics for deeper meaning.
In 1968, Amiri Baraka, an important poet and intellectual in the Black Arts Movement, declared
James Brown "our number one black poet." As a lyricist in this track, James Brown clearly accepts this mantle. While he may use relatively straightforward rhyming couplets, he effectively creates a tone and a feeling with his words, just as any great poet does. Aspects of Brown's songwriting are reminiscent to that of bluesman Robert Johnson or old Negro spirituals. His lyrics address not only people's fears and frustrations, but above all else, their hopes. This is very essence of singing the blues. Lines like "we've been 'buked and we've been scorned," or "we're tired of beating our head against the wall and working for someone else," would have really resonated with working class blacks in 1968. And as this anger builds up in the song, Brown lets out a resounding scream, allowing for one collective, therapeutic release. As Brown once stated, "I represent the spirits that are in the cage." And indeed, in this song, he most certainly does, allowing those spirits to be released.