There is a reason why the late great musician James Brown is honored as the ‘Godfather of Soul.’ That reason is songs like “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” The song is one of the most famous tracks on Brown’s extensive catalog over the span of 50 years of his career and a mandatory act in his concerts.
The original 2-minute 52-second version of the song was released on February 16, 1966, and has managed to transcend soul music through several generations into the future. The song also earned #1 on the Billboard R&B chart and #8 on Billboard Hot 100 chart.
James Brown and Betty Jean Newsome wrote the lyrics to this ballad. Betty Jean is also a former lover of James Brown.
Is “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” Sexist?
If you don’t listen to the song in its entirety or even the entire chorus for that matter, one can easily jump into the conclusion that “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” is a song advocating male dominance. Whilst some statistics do stand in favor of the title of the song, James Brown completely flips the idea of the title of the song around. The idea behind the song is that no matter how many great things men have done and accomplished throughout time, the man is nothing without his woman.
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“It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” Lyrics Review & Song Meaning
“This is a man’s world” lyric repeats twice in the chorus as if to make a certain point. James Brown wants to emphasize the importance of the man’s woman by empowering the lyric above. The higher the buildup, the harder the fall.
It is not fiction that some of the greatest male figures in history had equally great or even greater females behind their success. James Brown builds up this case quite nicely throughout the song.
James Brown doesn’t just say “This is a man’s world.” But he also brings in a few real-world examples. He brings in four examples of inventions made by men, just to build up for the eventual fall.
The four examples with their honored male figures are listed below;
- “man made the cars” — Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot is credited for the first mechanical vehicle in 1769.
- “Man made the train” — Richard Trevithick, a British mechanical engineer and inventor, is considered as the builder of the first train in 1803.
- “Man made the electric light” — English chemist Humphry Davy developed the first incandescent light in 1802.
- “Man made the boat for the water” — there is no written record of one person being accredited for the invention of the boat, except for Noah’s Ark as found in The Bible.
In the second verse of the song, there is a sudden shift in the theme of the track. Whilst the first verse was dedicated to praising different inventions by man throughout history, now we are brought back to the world of the general population. Here, a man earns a living and provides for his family. He does so happily, knowing that he is working hard to protect and sustain what he loves the most-his family-his little girl, boy, and his woman. Because they give him back the things he values above everything, happiness, and love!
In the outro, James Brown completes his duty of letting everyone realize that a man is nothing without his woman. You could be the best inventor in the world or the holder of the most patents. But if you have not witnessed a woman’s love, his life would have been a failure. A man could have won the most prestigious award there is in the world, but his life is incomplete without winning the heart of a woman!
James Brown compares a man without a woman’s love to a man “lost in the wilderness,” “lost in bitterness,” and “lost in loneliness.”
So, the whole buildup of the song was twisted and flipped around, in the end, to enhance the point that ‘a man is nothing without his woman.’
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