Living In America

Album: Gravity (1985)
Charted: 5 4

Songfacts®:

  • This was written by Dan Hartman ("I Can Dream About You") and Charles Midnight. It was recorded by James Brown at the request of Sly Stallone for his film Rocky 4. Brown was a legend and known as "The Godfather Of Soul," but the younger audience (especially the white audience) was generally unfamiliar with his work. Jim Peterik, who wrote "Eye Of The Tiger" for Rocky 3 and "Burning Heart" for Rocky 4, told us that Stallone was exceptional when it came to reinventing himself for a new audience and had a great sense for how to use music in his films. Stallone could also be very convincing, and was able to put Brown in a position he wasn't familiar with - singing someone else's song in a mainstream movie. The move paid off for Brown, who hadn't charted on the Hot 100 since 1976. "Living In America" became one of his biggest hits and introduced him to a new generation.
  • The movie Rocky IV was over-the-top in its jingoism, as the boxer Rocky fights the evil Russian Drago. In 1985, the cold war was at a peak, and the underdog Rocky played very well with an American audience. James Brown was used effectively in this context, as this song was used early in the film before American boxer Apollo Creed is killed by Drago in the ring. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Mike - Santa Barbara, CA
  • The song won the 1986 Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Vocal Performance.
  • In the years after this song was released, Brown's music became the basis for hundreds of hip-hop tracks that sampled him without his consent. It was the fresh new sound, but Brown felt ripped off. His 1988 album I'm Real both blasted hip-hop and incorporated it, especially the title track. It was his last his last studio album to chart in America (#96), but once the legal issues were worked out, he got paid for all those samples and claimed his place as a forebear of the genre.
  • In 1986, Weird Al Yankovic recorded a parody of this entitled "Living with a Hernia." The original line "got to have a celebration" is replaced with "got to have an operation."
  • The horns were supplied by The Uptown Horns, a New York section that backed the J. Geils Band on their Freeze Frame album and played on "Love Shack" by The B-52s.

Comments: 2

  • Seventhmist from 7th Heaven"The movie Rocky IV was over-the-top in its jingoism."
    Show the slightest bit of patriotism in anything and you can bet that some left-winger will toss that word out.
  • Lorenzo from Austin, TxThe ultimate kudos to Reagan's America.
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