5 Songs You Didn’t Know James Brown Wrote for Other Artists

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Godfather of Soul, Soul Brother No. 1, and the Hardest Working Man in Show Business—James Brown easily earned all those honorary nicknames, and then some, throughout the many stages of his 50-year career.

Born May 3, 1933, in Barnwell, South Carolina, by the time James Joseph Brown was 16 he had already flirted with performing (even boxing) before he was sent to juvenile detention for robbery. While incarcerated, he formed a gospel quartet, met his longtime collaborator Bobby Byrd, and earned his first nickname “guy called Music Box.”

Following his release, James Brown continued singing gospel and gained more recognition after joining Byrd’s group, The Famous Flames, in 1954. The group had their first chart hit with “Please, Please, Please,” a song Brown was determined to write after Little Richard wrote the title on a napkin for him.

Releasing several more hits with The Famous Flames, including “Think,” “I”ll Go Crazy,” and “Bewildered,” before leaving the group in 1961, Brown already began cementing his unique sound for his own era.

Crossing over his soul into the R&B charts, Brown helped push the genre further into the mainstream. By 1965, Brown penned his first No. 1 hit “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” which earned him his first Grammy award for Best Rhythm & Blues Recording, followed by another chart-topping hit “I Got You,” which hit the R&B as well as the pop chart.

Shifting from Soul Brother No. 1 to the Godfather of Soul by the late 1960s, Brown’s hits continued with “I Got the Feelin’,” “Give It Up or Turnit A Loose,” “My Thang,” “Get Up Offa That Thing,” “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine” before pulling back from his songwriting duties in the late ’70s. In 1985, Brown hit No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Living in America,” written by Dan Hartman and Charlie Midnight. Also featured in Rocky IV, the song won Brown his second Grammy award.

Releasing his 54th album, I’m Real, in 1988, Brown earned his final top 10 hits with “Static” and “I’m Real,” and continued to release new music into the early 2000s. Brown released his 59th and final album, The Next Step, in 2002 and was scheduled to record “Vengeance,” a duet with Annie Lennox before his death on Dec. 25, 2006, at the age of 73.

One of the first 10 inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, Brown’s influence marked everyone from The Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Sly and the Family Stone, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, The Temptations, and beyond.

Earlier in his career, Brown worked closely with a number of singers and musicians within his community.

Here are five songs he wrote or co-wrote for other artists in the 1960s through ’70s.

1. “If You Don’t Think,” Tammy Montgomery (1963)
Written by James Brown

Before joining Motown in 1965 and scoring a series of No. 1 hits with her regular singing partner Marvin Gaye—”Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” “You’re All I Need to Get By,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”—Tammi Terrell went by her real surname of Montgomery and as “Tammy” working with James Brown’s Revue. Before her most enduring musical era with Gaye, Tammy Montgomery released a number of songs, including “If You Don’t Think,” written by Brown under his Try Me label. Diagnosed with a brain tumor in the late-’60s, Terrell died in 1970 at the age of 24.

If you don’t think that I love you
You don’t think that I care
Well, you better change, you better change
You better change

If you don’t think that I cry
Well, now you know that I was down
Oh, you better change, you better change
Ow, you better change

2. “It’s My Thing,” Marva Whitney (1969)
Written by James Brown and Marva Whitney

One of James Brown’s “Original Funky Divas,” Marva Whitney (1944-2012) was often referred to as Soul Sister #1. Singing in the James Brown Revue from 1967 through 1969, Whitney later released her album, It’s My Thing, which was produced and mostly written by Brown, including the title track, which she also co-wrote.

A play off of Aretha Franklin‘s 1967 hit “Respect” with its repeated sock it to me and The Isley Brothers‘ “It’s Your Thing,” in the song Whitney is making her prerogatives clear. In 1968, Brown and Whitney also co-wrote her single “What Do I Have to Do to Prove My Love to You.”

It’s my thing
I can do what I wanna do
You can’t tell me
Who to sock it to
It’s my thing
I can do what I wanna do
You can’t tell me
Who to sock it to

You don’t want me to love you
It ain’t no big deal
You don’t wanna leave me man
It ain’t no big deal
I don’t need love
As for as you
Make me no difference
Who you sock it to

3. “Super Good,” Myra Barnes (1970)
Written by James Brown

Queen of the James Brown Soul Revue, Myra Barnes (b. 1939) played with the J.B.s for three years in the early 1960s before she was replaced by Marva Whitney. Known for her “answer” songs, a number. of Barnes’ songs answered other famous hits, including “I’m Too Tough for Mr. Big Stuff,” an answer to Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff” and her response to Brown’s “Super Bad” with “Super Good.”

Featured on the 1970 collection of songs under his label, James Brown’s Funky People (Part 2), in “Super Good,” Barnes, who also went under the name Vicki Anderson (see below), is demanding respect from men—just like Aretha [Franklin].

Now Aretha said respect me, your days won’t be so lean, ah yeah, mmm
Brother One said ‘get on up, I feel like a sex machine’
Hey, alright, hmm
Well, brotherman, don’t get no lip
My fine soul handsome lad, hey, watch me now, mmm-hmm
Mama gonna get up and do my thing, and I’ll be super bad
Hey, alright, yeah
Now when I say I’ll be super bad, yeah
I mean I do everything I should
So if you don’t understand my rap
Well, that means super good, oh yeah, super good

4. “No More Heartaches, No More Pain,” Vicki Anderson (1970)
Written by James Brown and Bobby Byrd

Under Myra Barnes’ other stage name, Vicki Anderson released a number of singles, including “No More Heartaches, No More Pain,” co-written by Brown and her husband, the late Bobby Byrd (1934-2007). A singer, songwriter, band leader, producer, and more, Byrd was instrumental in his childhood friend, James Brown’s, career from the beginning—starting out together in one of their first bands, The Famous Flames, in the mid-’50s—and was posthumously inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. Brown also wrote the song “Message from the Soul Sisters” for Anderson.

No more heartaches, no more pain
I’ve found somebody to ease this type of strain
No more heartaches, no more pain
I’ve found somebody to ease this type of strain

No more heartaches
No more pain

I won’t give up if you give out, tryin’ to save my pride
Even though it hurts me way down deep inside
My friends say I’m crazy for lovin’ you like I do
I won’t give up if you give out ’cause my love is true

5. “Think (About It),” Lyn Collins (1972)
Written by James Brown and Lee Austin

Written and produced by Brown, and featuring his backing band, The J.B.’s, Lyn Collins’ 1972 hit “Think (About It),” peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Best Selling Soul Singles chart. The song became popular for its one-take of instrumentals, funk drum beats and it takes two to make a thing go right refrain, which has been sampled more than 3,000 times since its release, including in Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock’s 1988 hip-hop hit “It Takes Two.”

Brown wrote several more songs for Collins, who died in 2005 at the age of 56, including “Mama Feelgood,” released in 1973, and “Rock Me Again & Again & Again & Again & Again & Again,” which was later covered by The Human League in 1984, and her 1975 single “You Can’t Love Me If You Don’t Respect Me.”

I don’t need no heartache
I can’t stand no misery
Let me think, think

It takes two to make a thing go right
It takes two to make it outta sight

Photo by KMazur/WireImage

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