Thursday Inspiration #130 Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag

Respond to this challenge, by either by using the prompt word drag, or going with the above picture, or by means of the song ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag’, or by going with another song by James Brown, or anything else that you think fits.  ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag (Part 1)’ peaked at #8 in the Billboard 100 and went to #1 on the Billboard Hot Rhythm and Blues Singles chart.  This song won a Grammy for Best R&B Recording of 1965 and it was inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999.  With this song Brown invented a sound that dramatically changed R&B, and pop music as a whole, for decades to come.  The title “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” ostensibly refers to the lyrics’ tongue-in-cheek story of an older man getting hip to the new dance trends.  The phrase, however, also signals Brown’s departure from the soul and the creation of funk music, which became his signature sound.  Brown rattles out the names of popular dance crazes mentioning the Monkey, the Mashed Potato, the Jerk, the Twist, the Fly, the Alligator, and the Boomerang, all over a beat that’s entirely unconducive to doing any of those.  A “bag” is slang for a way of doing something or a kind of lifestyle.  In the music industry artists were always being classified, and being described as surf music, Motown, the British Invasion, R&B, pop, bluegrass, country, jazz, hip hop or a doo-wop performer and some were thought to be a mixed bag.

James Brown is arguably the greatest artist in the history of black music, and his contribution to American popular culture with 33 years as a hitmaker is immeasurable.  He invented funk and rap, and his profound influence on music is international in scope.  Brown is the most popular black musician of all time charting 114 singles.  Brown’s showmanship and voracious performance style set him apart from his contemporaries and he was called Soul Brother No. 1, the Godfather of Soul, the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, Mr. Dynamite and he was widely regarded as one of the most important figures in American popular music.  Brown began his career as a gospel singer in Toccoa, Georgia.  He came to national public attention in the mid-1950s as the lead singer of the Famous Flames, a rhythm and blues vocal group founded by Bobby Byrd.  Brown built a reputation as a dynamic live performer and his success peaked with the 1963 live album Live at the Apollo and the 1965 compilation album Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.

James Brown was far from being an angel and he served time behind bars, spent 30 years beating women, gypped collaborators out of record royalties, threatened musicians with guns, tried to steal their girlfriends, left band members stranded on the road, and he got so high on marijuana and PCP “angel dust” that he thought he could “fly like a bird.”   Brown was prone to drug abuse and his ailments included prostate cancer and diabetes.  James Brown died on Christmas Day 2006 at age 73 with his cause of death listed as being congestive heart failure related to pneumonia.

James Brown recorded this song in one take, the released version was supposed to be a run-through, but it sounded so good they kept it.  Brown still hadn’t memorized the song’s lyrics yet, so he read them from a sheet that was in front of him.  At the beginning of the original take, he can be heard saying “There’s a lot of words here, man.”   He also can be heard exclaiming “This is a hit!” just before the band kicks in.

Musically, funk refers to a style of aggressive urban dance music driven by hard syncopated bass lines and drumbeats and accented by any number of instruments involved in rhythmic counterplay, all working toward a “groove.”  Previously with rhythm and blues, rock and roll and soul music, the emphasis was put on the second or fourth beat of the bar, but when James Brown began to stress the first beat, this became the bedrock of funk music.  Brown didn’t invent playing on the one, or the rhythm of the one, as this was already a standard technique in New Orleans jazz and R&B, but ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag’ did become known as the first funk song and funk went on to become one of the most popular genres in the 1970s and ‘80s.

Come here sister, Papa’s in the swing
He ain’t too hip, about that new breed babe
He ain’t no drag
Papa’s got a brand new bag

12 thoughts on “Thursday Inspiration #130 Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag

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