At Arthur Smith Studios, James Brown birthed ‘funk’

“On February 1 [1965, James] Brown and his band stopped by Arthur Smith Studios in Charlotte, North Carolina, en route to a show, and laid down ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag’ in a hour…. They did it in one take. It was suppose to be a run-through, but Brown knew he had to leave it as is — because everyone in the studio was dancing to the playback. He writes in his memoir [“I Feel Good,” 2005] that even though he was a soul singer, it was on this night that he started going off in his own unique direction.

” ‘I had discovered that my strength was not in the horns, it was in the rhythm. I was hearing everything, even the guitars, like they were drums. I had found out how to make it happen. On playbacks, when I saw the speakers jumping, vibrating a certain way, I knew that was it: deliverance….Later on they said it was the beginning of funk.’

“The lyrics of ‘New Bag’ are simple — just Brown trying to get a ‘new breed’ babe to dance with him by showing that he can do the Jerk, the Fly, the Monkey, the Mashed Potato, the Twist and the Boomerang. But the phrase ‘new bag’ came to symbolize the new Black Power approach many activists were embracing, along with a new way to deconstruct the blues for the next generation of musicians. With the song, as music critic Dave Marsh wrote, ‘Brown invented the rhythmic future we live in today.’ ”

— From 1965: The Most Revolutionary Year in Music” by Andrew Grant Jackson (2015)

 

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