James Brown changed my life. When he cut “Say It Loud—I’m Black and I’m Proud,” we had our fists in the air. It was like, “Man, black is cool,” because at the time it wasn’t cool to be black. Colored was the thing. Being called black was just like the "N" word, and people don’t know that now. “Say It Loud” empowered you.
The music gave us an opportunity to express what we were struggling through. The music today only frustrates you even more. If I can take young artists I’m working with and instill some of what we were talking about in ’68—as soon as you hear it, you say, “That’s the bomb! Ohmigod!” like we did with “Say It Loud”—then all the better. That’s my mission now. —Growing up in Cincinnati, home of King Records, singer-songwriter-musician William “Bootsy” Collins cut his musical teeth as a 17-year-old bass guitarist with James Brown—the Godfather of Soul and King Records’s top act in the 1960s. Shortly after returning from entertaining U.S. troops in Saigon, Brown began working on a new song, which he released in August 1968. The song would cost Brown with his white audience, who largely misunderstood it, as he related in his memoir, I Feel Good. But for Collins, “Say It Loud—I’m Black and I’m Proud” ushered in a positive, uplifting way of seeing himself and the world around him and was as influential as any guitar lick Brown ever taught him. In the 1970s Collins teamed up with George Clinton to help create a new wave in soul music with the whimsical P-Funk sound of Parliament-Funkadelic, and later with his own group, Bootsy’s Rubber Band. Collins is now head of Bootzilla Productions in Cincinnati.
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