thanks yahtzeebutterfly for the reminder about the power of this song.
“Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud” is a funk song performed by James Brown and written with his bandleader Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis in 1968. It was released as a two-part single which held the number-one spot on the R&B singles chart for six weeks, and peaked at number ten on the Billboard Hot 100. Both parts of the single were later included on James Brown’s 1968 album A Soulful Christmas and on his 1969 album sharing the title of the song. The song became an unofficial anthem of the Black Power movement.
“Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud” was Brown’s first recording to feature trombonist Fred Wesley.
In the song, Brown addresses the prejudice towards blacks in America, and the need for black empowerment. He proclaims that “we demands a chance to do things for ourself/we’re tired of beating our head against the wall/and workin’ for someone else”. The song’s call-and-response chorus is performed by a group of young children, who respond to Brown’s command of “Say it loud” with “I’m black and I’m proud!” The song was recorded in a Los Angeles area suburb with about 30 young people from the Watts and Compton areas.
The lyrics “We’ve been ‘buked and we’ve been scorned/We’ve been treated bad, talked about as sure as you’re born” in the first verse of the song paraphrases the spiritual “I’ve Been ‘Buked”.
Several other Brown singles from the same era as “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud”, notably “I Don’t Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing (Open Up the Door, I’ll Get It Myself)”, explored similar themes of black empowerment and self-reliance.
The song’s opening exhortation, “With your bad self”, is an example of linguistic reappropriation, and added a new entry to Brown’s long list of nicknames: “His Bad Self.”