Certain Songs #724: James Brown – “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine”

james-brown-sex-machine Album: Star Time!
Year: 1970

One of the most cleverly titled songs in Brown’s entire canon, “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine,” deploys the parenthesis in the title with the same deadly accuracy his brand-new guitarist plays the lick that powers the song.

That new guitarist, one Phelps “Catfish” Collins, was instrumental in Brown moving his music away from the horns and towards a smaller, but no less funky sound.


Certain Songs #723: James Brown – “I Don’t Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door, I’ll Get It Myself)”

james_brown-i_dont_want_nobody_to_give_me_nothing_s_1 Album: Star Time!
Year: 1969

It doesn’t matter whether James Brown came up with or allowed himself to be called “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business.” In fact, it doesn’t matter whether or not he was: I mean, how do you actually rate that? Is there some kind of show business work scale? Or Top Ten List?

And note that he wasn’t just the hardest-working man in Soul or the hardest-working man in Music. Nope: James Motherfucking Brown was the hardest working man in all of Show Business! He worked harder than Lucille Ball and Jimmy Stewart and Jerry Lee Lewis. He worked harder than Willie Mays and Walter Cronkite and Norman Mailer.


Certain Songs #722: James Brown – “Get it Together”

james_brown-_i_cant_stand_myself_when_you_touch_me Album: I Can’t Stand Myself When You Touch Me
Year: 1967

James Brown was absolutely on fire in 1967.

And on no song did that fire burn hotter than the absolutely scorching “Get It Together,” which takes the super funky groove of songs like “Cold Sweat” and then ups the tempo to a ridiculous degree.


Certain Songs #721: James Brown – “Cold Sweat”

james-brown-cold-sweat Album: Cold Sweat
Year: 1967

Everything is percussion. That, of course, is the formal innovation of James Brown’s mid-1960s funk: to treat every single instrument in the room as a percussion instrument.

And with its stop-start horns, bass, and drums, and of course the chickenscratch guitars of Jimmy Nolen and Country Kellum, “Cold Sweat” might be the epitome of that innovation.


Certain Songs #720: James Brown – “Don’t Be A Dropout”

james_brown_-_sings_raw_soul Album: James Brown Sings Raw Soul
Year: 1966

“Don’t Be A Dropout,” has often been credited as James Brown’s first socially conscious song, but he didn’t even write it. A guy named Burt Jones wrote, which is probably why it’s a weird hybrid of Brown’s driving funk and a flat-out pop song.

And, as always, with a song that’s so preachy, I wonder if it persuaded any kids — black or white — to actually stay in school. Like, they were teetering on the verge of dropping out, but then “Don’t Be a Dropout” came on the radio, and they were all like, “nah, man, I’m going to stay in school.”

Though I should point out that it wasn’t just James Brown: Otis Redding also recorded a pretty great song on the same subject, so maybe it was useful.