Wednesday, July 15, 2015

50 years ago: James Brown charted with “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”

Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag

James Brown

Writer(s): James Brown (see lyrics here)

Released: June 1965

First Charted: July 15, 1965

Peak: 8 US, 8 CB, 6 HR, 18 RB, 25 UK, 4 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, -- video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

“Brand New Bag” is “arguably the first funk record,” RS500 “a metaphor for the changing times.” NPR Its razor-sharp guitar rhythms and shattering horn riffs…were simultaneously primitive and brand spanking new.” TB “With the possible exception of Little Richard, no one has ever made a rock or rhythm and blues record this extreme.” MA “Few songs have changed music as much.” TC “No record since – certainly no dance record – has been unmarked by it.” MA

“It also represents Brown’s first attempt to capture the rhythms of his live performances in a studio recording. All those breaks in the melody gave him a chance to execute his intricate dance moves.” NPR’99 The only way it “could be more bone-rattling would be if James Brown himself leaped from your speakers, grabbed you tight by the soldiers and danced you around the room.” MA

The lyrics about “an old man brave enough to get out on the dance floor of anightclub” WK “seemed largely gibberish, but for sheer, unbridled energy nothing else came close in the mid 1960s.” TB The “band provides a horn-heavy backdrop with a prominent rhythm and an electric guitar riff for a hook. Both singer and musicians place overwhelming emphasis on the first beat of each measure.” WK “It’s driven by the empty space between beats as much as by Brown’s bellow and guitarist Jimmy Nolen’s ice-chipper scratch.” RS500

Brown had been an R&B mainstay for about a decade. This was his tenth top-ten hit on the R&B charts and third #1. “But until ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag’ climbed the charts in 1965, he was largely unknown to white fans.” NPR This was his first top-ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart.


  • TC Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Page 668.
  • MA Dave Marsh (1989). The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. New York, NY; New American Library. Page 4.
  • NPR National Public Radio (1999). “The Most Important American Musical Works of the 20th Century
  • RS500 Rolling Stone (4/7/2011). “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
  • TB Thunder Bay Press. (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 76.
  • WK Wikipedia

Related Links:

First posted 4/9/2020; last updated 8/16/2022.

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