Previously Unheard James Brown Song “We Got to Change” Released

Nearly 55 years after it was first recorded, UMe/Republic Records released James Brown‘s previously unheard song “We Got to Change” with a three-song EP featuring an extended version and remix. “We Got to Change” was recorded on August 16, 1970, at Criteria Studios in Miami, Florida, just months after longtime members of Brown’s orchestra walked out on him.

For the Criteria session, Brown assembled a new band with the sibling duo of guitarist Phelps “Catfish” Collins and bassist William “Bootsy” Collins. Dubbed the J.B.’s. by Brown, the pair helped bring a “harder edge and a fresh identity” to his classics like “Super Bad,” “Get Up (I Feel Like Being) a Sex Machine,” and “Soul Power.” 

“The James Brown Revue invented the Funk,” said Rickey Vincent, author of the 1996 book Funk, in a statement. “And the J.B.’s perfected it.”

This period also led to a reunion between Brown and his 1960s sidemen, “The Funky Drummer” Clyde Stubblefield, who crafted drum beats considered funk standards, along with Bobby Byrd, who is heard singing on the chorus of “We Got to Change” with Brown.

“’We Got To Change’ is another example of James Brown’s social outreach (and outrage), seen in singles like ‘Don’t Be a Dropout,’ ‘Say It Loud I’m Black and I’m Proud,’ ‘Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved’ and ‘King Heroin,'” reads a descriptor of the song. “It is also a testament to Brown’s diverse musical language, quoting from Little Jimmy Dickens’ 1949 hit ‘Take an Old Cold Tater (And Wait)’ and the African-American anti-war spiritual ‘Down by the Riverside.'”

Videos by American Songwriter

The release of We Got to Change precedes the upcoming two-part A&E documentary James Brown: Say It Loud, which will premiere on February 19 and 20. Executive produced by Mick Jagger and Victoria Pearman and directed by Deborah Riley Draper, the series traces Brown’s life and career from dropping out of school in the seventh grade and growing up in the Jim Crow-era South to becoming a music legend.

Say It Loud also features never-before-seen archival performances and interviews, Say It Loud also features additional interviews with Jagger, Boosty Collins, Reverend Al Sharpton, Public Enemy’s Chuck D, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Questlove, LL Cool J, Dallas Austin, along with Brown’s children Deanna, Yamma, and Larry Brown, and more.

[RELATED: 5 Songs You Didn’t Know James Brown Wrote for Other Artists]

“James Brown always leaned into the social tip,” said Bootsy Collins in a statement. “He always was trying to keep the youngsters informed and the people informed on what’s going on. The new breed was coming in and certain things were going out.”

Collins continued, “He loved to inform people on what was coming and what was going to be because he felt like he was part of it, and he was.”

Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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