Friday, June 14, 2013

African American Vernacular English In The Song "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases the 1965 song "Papa Got A Brand New Bag" that was composed & performed by James Brown. Special attention is given in this post to examples of African American Vernacular English that are found in that song's lyrics.

The content of this post is presented for cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

(Songwriters: Jevon Lendrick Hill, Theron Makiel Thomas, Timothy Jamahli Thomas)

Come here sister.....Papa's in the swing
He ain't too hip...about that new breed babe
He ain't no drag
Papa's got a brand new bag

Come here mama....and dig this crazy scene
He's not too fancy....but his line is pretty clean
He ain't no drag.
Papa's got a brand new bag

He's doing the Jerk....
He's doing the Fly
Don't play him cheap 'cause you know he ain't shy
He's doing the Monkey, the Mashed Potatoes,
Jump back Jack, See you later alligator.

Come here sister
Papa's in the swing
He ain't too hip now
but I can dig that new breed babe;
He ain't no drag
He's got a brand new bag

Oh papa! He's doing the Jerk
Papa...he's doing the Jerk
He's doing the twist ... just like this,
He's doing the Fly ev'ry day and ev'ry night
The thing' the Boomerang.
Hey....come on
Hey! Hey.....come on
Hey! Hey....he's pu tight...out of sight...
Come on. Hey! Hey!


James Brown - Papa's Got A Brand New Bag (From "Legends of Rock 'n' Roll" DVD)

eaglerocktv.,Published on Apr 2, 2012

This amazing concert brings together some of the true pioneers of rock 'n' roll music.
DVD on sale here

Featuring Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, James Brown, Fats Domino and B.B.King. Recorded in Italy in 1989, these legendary artists perform some of their best loved tracks such as Papa's Got A Brand New Bag, Bo Diddley, Great Balls Of Fire, Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On and Blueberry Hill. At the end of the concert all the performers come together for an all-star jam that leaves the audience hollering for more. It's a rare event indeed that brings so many great live performers together on one bill and this DVD captures the real excitement of the evening.
for a James Brown performance of "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag"

Note: Many of these 1960s African American slang terms are no longer used. Here's my understanding of their meanings:

Come here sister - "sister" here is a general referent for females
Papa - a general referent for male; particular one who sees himself as "in charge". [In my opinion, in this song, the vocalist (James Brown) refers to himself as "papa", as "he", and as "I".]
Papa's in the swing - the man is at the party scene [where things are winging [jumping, "happening"]; the same as or similar to an announcement that the man [who is singing] is "in the house" [has arrived at the dance/party]
He ain't too hip now - he's not completely up to date [with the latest fashions, slang, and/or dances]
but I can dig that new breed babe - but I [still can] understand/ relate to women who are [hip, part of this modern scene]
He ain't no drag - he's not someone who would slow down the pace of the scene
"Bag" - something that a person can lay claim to [probably from the saying "it's [put] in the bag" [something you use to carry what belongs to you]

In the context of this song "bag" refers to new dancees.
Come here mama - same as "sister" above
dig this crazy scene - check out what is going on at this dance/party
he may not be fancy but his line is pretty clean - he may not have expensive clothes, but he still looks good
Don't play him cheap 'cause you know he ain't shy - don't underestimate him [the vocalist] because he won't hesitate to call attention to himself [by showing how he dances]
Jump back Jack, See you later alligator - two rhyming phrases that African American "hepcats" used in the 1930s & 1940s; These phrases reinforce that "papa" is hip (though somewhat outdated).
he's pu tight...out of sight.- These are two rhyming phrases from the 1960s.

A person or thing that is "tight" has it all together [has no loose ends; is doing something or is itself very well put together [pu?] Read my comment below under "out of sight".
"out of sight" (outta sight)– wonderful, great, so good that it's way up in the stratosphere; beyond normal sight. “outta sight” is often given its literal meaning by children and others person chanting the Michael Jackson versions to the handclap rhyme "Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky". Those rhymes include multiple versions of the line "Billy Jean is outta sight (or out of sight)".

Click for examples of those rhymes.]

Note: I personally don't remember saying, reading, or hearing anyone else say "pu tight". However "up tight/out of sight" was very common & was popularized by Stevie Wonder in his 1966 5record "Uptight (Everything's Alright). "Up tight" is probably a shortened form of "wrapped up tight" ("tied tightly"). Could "pu" be a "hip" way of spelling "up"? (spelling it backwards)?

the Jerk
the Fly
the Monkey
the Mashed Potatoes
the Twist
the Boomerang

Click for a pancocojams post that focuses on another African American English meaning for the word "bags" in the song "Bag Lady" by Erykah Badu.

Thanks to James Brown for his musical legacy. Thanks also to those who composed this song, and all others who I quoted in this post. Thanks also to the publisher of this video on youtube.

Thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor commeents are welcome.

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