‘My Thang’ may not be one of those numbers that come to mind as instantly as James Brown’s best-known tunes, but the riff and the groove are immediately familiar. Written and produced by Brown himself, the song succeeded George McCrae’s ‘Rock Your Baby’ to start a two-week run at No.1 on the Billboard R&B chart in 1974,
Just to emphasise his legacy, it was already his 84th R&B chart entry and Brown really was on the good foot in ’74 – ‘My Thang’ was the second of three R&B No.1s in a row for him, preceded by ‘The Payback’ and followed by ‘Papa Don’t Take No Mess.’ Regular band members like ‘Pee Wee’ Ellis and Fred Wesley are joined on the track by such guest horn players as John Faddis and David Sanborn.
Running at just under five minutes, ‘My Thang’ is a groovy concoction of horns, brooding guitars, a heavy bassline, as well as passionate yells and screams and even a cowbell.
Like almost everything in the James Brown catalogue, the track has been sampled repeatedly, in more than 40 subsequent releases – Jay Z and Kanye West’s ‘Gotta Have It,’ LL Cool J’s ‘Murdergram,’ Boyz II Men’s ‘Sympin’ and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s ‘Brand New Funk,’ to name just a few.
The song also appeared on Brown’s 1974 double album Hell, that was released a year after the gold-selling The Payback. By the time Brown recorded Hell, his 38th studio album, he’d already been crowned the “Godfather of Soul” and was exploring the emerging genre of funk.
“Hell, a double album by the man himself, is remarkably free of self-indulgence,” writes Rolling Stones in their original 1974 review. “The title tune, ‘Coldblooded’ and ‘Papa Don’t Take No Mess’ are sure-fire disco smashes, the kind of no-nonsense party music one expects from Soul Brother Number One. But there are some interesting variations in the Brown formula as well.”