James Brown hit the studio to record his classic single “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud” today (August 7, 1968).
“Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud” was released during a tense time for blacks and America, who were still struggling for their civil right.
To make matters worse, James Brown was not high on the list of black fans after releasing a track titled “America,” a pro-U.S. tune which was recorded after the singer’s tour of Vietnam.
As a result of the song “America,” a number of significant black activists also turn against Brown.
H. Rap Brown, the Minister of Justice for the Black Panther Party insulted James Brown in an interview, while some fans boycotted his music.
Others questioned James Brown’s style of hair, which he wore in a process at the time.
“Everybody got on us about (the song ['America']),” Bobby Byrd said. “We were singing about America, black folks didn’t want to hear that – we were in a protest situation.”
In one situation in South Carolina, James Brown went to perform at a show and when he opens his hotel room door, a present was waiting for him – a fake bomb, with a letter in it.
James Brown returned to his hotel room and wrote “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud,” on a napkin in 20 minutes.
The track was cut on August 7, 1968 at Vox Studios in Los Angeles.
“Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud” was rush-released two weeks after it was recorded at Vox Studios, in Los Angeles.
The record sold 750,000 copies in the first two weeks and shot to #1 on the R&B charts, where it stayed for six weeks.
Initially, “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud” was met with resistance, so James Brown took out a two-page ad in the Los Angeles Sentinel, labeling the track “a message from James Brown to the people of America.”
Within a year of the song’s release, James Brown had removed it from his concert repertoire, over concerns that the message was being misinterpreted.
“The song is obsolete now… But it was necessary to teach pride then, and I think the song did a lot of good for a lot of people… But really, if you listen to it, it sounds like a children’s song,” James Brown said. “That’s why I had children in it, so children who heard it could grow up feeling pride,” James Brown wrote in his memoirs.
“The song cost me a lot of my cross-over audience. The racial makeup at my concerts was mostly black after that. I don’t regret it, though, even if it was misunderstood,” James Brown said.
Waxfact: “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud,” was the debut recording for James Brown’s band’s trombonist, Fred Wesley.