Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud
James Brown (1968)
Legend has it the Black Panthers sparked James Brown’s 1968 political awakening when they left a deactivated hand grenade outside his Hollywood hotel room. But Brown’s reinvention as a figurehead for Black Power after a decade as a TV-friendly superstar saw him distil the mood of the times with typical showmanship. Recorded in Vox Studios, Los Angeles, Say It Loud… was a bravura mix of impassioned sloganeering and soul testifying backed by one of bandleader Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis’s most gripping funk arrangements. An instant success, the song sold 750,000 copies after release and even saw Brown restyle his famous pomade into an Afro. And while he later sought to downplay its significance, its message of righteous self-empowerment rang out for decades to come.