Friday, June 06, 2014

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 6: A Song You Can Always Relate To

My selection for today is a song that, if you gave me nothing else but the title, I'd most likely say "yeah, I can relate to that."  I'm picking "It's A Man's Man's Man's World"-- yes, that's three uses of the male possessive--  originally recorded in 1966 by James Brown and intended as a pun on the title of the 1963 comedy film It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.   Unfortunately, I've learned to relate to this song ever more as I've grown ever older.  Especially in the last few years, and especially in my professional world (academic Philosophy), I now take it as practically axiomatic that ours is indeed "a man's man's man's world."  I don't grant that as a concession to the current state of affairs, just an eminently accurate description it.

James Brown's version of the song is by far the most well-known, which is appropriate since the lyrics include an accounting of all of the great historical accomplishments of Man.  Who better to recount that list than the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, after all?  Cars, roads, trains, "electrolights," boats, toys and money.  It's an impressive list.  (Well done, sirs.)  Below is James Brown performing it live in London in 2003.  (If you've never seen the live version in which James Brown calls Michael Jackson up to the stage-- and MJ does a spot-on James Brown impersonation-- you should watch that one, too.)  Here he is, the Godfather of Soul himself:

Of course, the great brilliance of this song, and what keeps it just short of being a Sausage Fest Anthem, is that pesky little truth that Brown sneaks in just at the tail-end of each chorus.  Yes, this is a man's man's man's world. But don't forget, not even for a second, that it would be nothing, NOTHING, without a woman or a girl.  For that reason, I've always slightly preferred Etta James's version.  Here's Miss Peaches, delivering the same message, but turning the Irony Dial all the way up to eleven while she does.

In the United States today, women continue to make only 77¢ for every dollar a man makes.  Women constitute 60% of minimum wage workers and nearly two-thirds of all part-time workers. And that's not to mention all of the unpaid labor women contribute or the non-earnings-related everyday sexism that they battle constantly. It's not an easy world to live in for a woman or a girl.  We should be reminded more often of this.  Men never could have built this world they call their own, could never have made the cars or the roads or the trains or the boats, without a lot of strong and capable women doing a the essential, unappreciated and often unacknowledged work we do.

Brown and James are right.  This world would be nothing, nothing, without a woman or a girl.  Take a second today to thank one.

Here's your quick-access link to the entire 30 Day Song Challenge 2014 prompt-list and my picks for each day.

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