Papa's Got A Brand New Bag

Album: Papa's Got A Brand New Bag (1965)
Charted: 25 8


  • A "bag" is slang for a way of doing something or a kind of lifestyle. It was a popular saying in the '60s, especially among musicians, who wouldn't describe songs as being "in an R&B bag" or "in a doo-wop bag."

    In this song, James Brown sings about coming up with a new "bag," meaning a completely different way of approaching music. Inspired by what he heard in church, he punctuated the music on the downbeat, creating his "brand new bag."
  • In March 1965, after a legal battle with King Records, Brown agreed to a new contract with a higher royalty rate than their previous agreement, plus Brown's own publishing company and complete artistic control. Brown promptly went into a Charlotte, North Carolina, studio and cut "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag."

    King Records executive Syd Nathan gave a copy of this to New York DJ Frankie Cocker, who hated the new James Brown style but was impressed with the response when he put it on the air anyway. When King Records released the track as a single, Smash Records, the label Brown had leased some of his songs to that prompted the lawsuit, released an instrumental version of the song. As part of the ruling, Smash Records could release only instrumental versions of Brown's songs.

    Brown had recorded the very similar sounding "Out Of Sight" for Smash earlier that year, violating his King contract. James retooled the song, using a riff his band had been playing live, as a peace offering to King.
  • The original song was about seven minutes long, moved at a slower pace, and featured a more elaborate intro. After the song was cut, Brown sliced off most of the intro, sped the song up to get it played on pop radio, and broke it up into three parts (the second of which can be heard on the flipside of the original single).
  • The vocal version reached #8 in the US. It was the first Top 10 hit for the Godfather of Soul, and marked a departure from his early music toward the definition of his signature sound. Horns are used for percussive effect, and Brown's vocals are tightly attached to the overall instrumental mix.
  • Brown recorded this song in one take - the released version was merely supposed to be a run-through, but sounded so good it was kept anyway. Brown, who still hadn't memorized the song's lyrics, read from a sheet in front of him; at the beginning of the original take, he can be heard saying "There's a lot of words here, man." He also can be heard exclaiming "This is a hit!" just before the band kicks in.
  • This was followed by King's release of "I Got You (I Feel Good)," which quickly became Brown's biggest hit (until "Living in America" was released in 1985) as it went to #3 on the Hot 100.
  • Dancing was a big part of James Brown's stage show, and he often referred to dances in the lyrics to his songs. The dance crazes mentioned in this one are: The Jerk, The Fly, The Monkey, The Mashed Potatoes, The Alligator, The Twist, and the Boomerang.
  • This won a Grammy for Best R&B Recording of 1965. It was also inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999.
  • Artists to record this song include Pat Boone, Freddy Cannon, Georgie Fame, Quincy Jones, L.A. Guns, Willie Mitchell, Pigbag, Otis Redding, Roger, Jimmy Smith, The Ventures, Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France, for above 6
  • Brown's longtime sax player Maceo Parker played baritone sax on this track, and Maceo's older brother Melvin was the drummer. The guitar, which is most prominent when it answers Brown's chorus line, came courtesy of Jimmy Nolen.
  • This was performed in Beat the Devil, one of a series of BMW films (see it at YouTube). Faced with the problem of viewers skipping past commercials or simply ignoring them, BMW decided to make short films starring their products that people would choose to watch. James Brown stars in this one.
  • This was used in the 1993 Robin Williams film Mrs. Doubtfire. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Brett - Edmonton, Canada, for above 2

Comments: 10

  • Robert Parker from Kansas CityGreatest Soul, R&B, and Funk song of all time!!!
  • Melvyn from Nottingham UkBrown may well have read the lyrics from a piece of paper but he did not complain on the tape about "a lot of words here, man".

    On the full take released on Star Time in 1991, the tape starts in mid-conversation with Brown saying that he will have to 'check whether he can afford it'. This produces some indecipherable backchat to which Brown immediately ripostes: "NOT A WORD, YOUNG MAN..."

    Another dance featured in the lyrics is The Fight (every day and every night).

    I bought this record the day it was released in the U.K. On the London American label. Ever since then it has been my favourite single!

    The full take, at original speed (and without the slight echo that was added to the single) is a revelation.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn March 10th 1979, James Brown performed "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" on the Grand Ole Opry* at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN...
    He also sang the country standards, "Tennessee Waltz" and "Your Cheating' Heart"; he was invited on the show by Porter Wagoner and received mixed reviews...
    * I checked a couple of different web sites, and they verified that he actually did appear on the Opry!
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn September 1st 1965, James Brown performed "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" on the ABC-TV program "Shindig!"...
    It was the first time he performed the song on national TV; and at the time it was in its 4th of 8th weeks as the #1 record on Billboard's Hot R&B Singles chart {it was at #8 on the Hot Top 100 chart}...
    {See the second post below}.
  • Babbling Babette from Tulsa OkBack in August 1965, I entered the University of Kansas & this song was huge on campus. I bought the album in Lawrence, Ks. and loved it. My roommate at KU loved it so much she stole it for 2 weeks! The nerve!! I got it back though. That hit and the LP are what started me on the road to being a longtime James Brown fan. I think "Papa" was a #1 hit at one of Lawrence's radio stations that year. Tough song!
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn July 11th 1965, "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag (Part One)" by James Brown & the Famous Flames entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #80; and on August 29th, 1965 it peaked at #8 (for 2 weeks ) and spent 13 weeks on the Top 100...
    And since he is 'The Godfather of Soul' it is not surprising that on August 8th, 1965 it reached #1 (for 8 weeks) on Billboard's Hot R&B Singles chart; in fact between 1958 and 1974 he had seventeen #1 records on the Hot R&B Singles chart...
    May he R.I.P. (1933 - 2006).
  • Sean from TorontoThis song was referenced and a piece of it was played in "Face/Off".
  • John from New York, NyIn the second graph, the King Records executive was Syd Nathan, not Syn Nathan
  • Tim from Collinsville, IlThis song was referenced to good effect in the movie Face/Off
  • Tommy from Jacksonville, NcThe song was recorded at Arthur Smith Studios in Charlotte N.C.
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