Top 10 James Brown Pop Hit Songs

Musician James Brown performs on stage

Frank Micelotta/Getty Images 

Singer James Brown earned the title "Godfather of Soul" and his songs are classics. He placed 99 songs on the pop charts. These are his 10 biggest.

of 10

"I Got You (I Feel Good)" - 1965

James Brown - I Got You (I Feel Good)
James Brown - "I Got You (I Feel Good)". Courtesy King Records

This is probably James Brown's most widely known hit. The song was the biggest hit of his first major pop breakthrough period in the mid-1960s. The first recorded version from 1964 appears on the album Out of Sight and in a lip-synched performance in the 1965 Frankie Avalon film Ski Party. However, it was withdrawn due to conflicts with James Brown's label King Records. The movie Good Morning, Vietnam sparked a resurgence in interest in the song, and "I Got You (I Feel Good)" is now frequently heard at sports events. James Brown re-recorded the song himself for the 1975 album Sex Machine Today.

Watch Video

of 10

"Living In America - 1985

James Brown Living In America
James Brown - "Living In America". Courtesy Scotti Bros.

"Living In America" is the centerpiece of James Brown's return to pop music prominence in the mid-1980s. The song was featured in the soundtrack to the movie Rocky IV and became James Brown's only top 10 pop single in the UK. James Brown received a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for the song, and it was parodied by Weird Al Yankovic in a tune titled "Living With a Hernia." Disco star Dan Hartman co-wrote "Living In America" with Charlie Midnight.

Watch Video

of 10

"I Got the Feelin'" - 1968

James Brown - I Got the Feelin'
James Brown - I Got the Feelin'. Courtesy King Records

In the late 1960s, James Brown explored his funk and soul groove more deeply than ever before. Song structure broke down into little more than a continual groove with words chanted, screamed, and sung over the top. "I Got the Feelin'" is one of the best examples of Brown's work in this period. 10-year-old Michael Jackson sang "I Got the Feelin'" for a 1968 Jackson 5 audition with Motown Records owner Berry Gordy. The song topped the R&B chart.

Watch Video

of 10

"Cold Sweat (Part 1)" - 1967

James Brown - Cold Sweat, Part 1
James Brown - "Cold Sweat, Part 1". Courtesy King Records

Many pop music historians refer to "Cold Sweat" as the first true funk song. The record mostly abandoned melody in favor of a heavy beat "on the one" and lyrics that functioned primarily as another part of the instrumental mix. "Cold Sweat" also includes a highly influential drum break. Some critics saw "Cold Sweat" as overly simplistic and downgrading the value of melody in pop music. The song evolved from an earlier record "I Don't Care" recorded five years earlier in 1962.

Watch Video

of 10

"Papa's Got a Brand New Bag (Part 1)" - 1965

James Brown - Papa's Got a Brand New Bag, Part 1
James Brown - "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag, Part 1". Courtesy King Records

This was James Brown's first pop top 10 single, and it is recognized as a departure from his early music toward the definition of his signature sound. Horns are used for percussive effect, and Brown's vocals are tightly attached to the overall instrumental mix. "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" earned James Brown his first Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Recording. The song is seen as a landmark in the evolution of James Brown's R&B style toward funk.

of 10

"It's a Man's Man's Man's World" - 1966

James Brown - It's a Man's Man's Man's World
James Brown - It's a Man's Man's Man's World. Courtesy King Records

"It's a Man's Man's Man's World" shows off James Brown's talents as a romantic ballad singer. This is a side unfamiliar to many pop fans. The song almost was not released as a single due to legal wrangling between King Records (James Brown's primary label) and Mercury Records (which owned the rights to some of James Brown's early records). The song hit #1 on the R&B chart and the title plays off the hit 1963 comedy movie It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. The lyrics notably attribute most everything about the contemporary world to me, but they would "mean nothing without a woman or a girl." Christina Aguilera's performance of "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" at the 2007 Grammy Awards in tribute to James Brown is considered one of the top Grammy Awards performances of all time.

of 10

"Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud" - 1968

James Brown - Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud
James Brown - Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud. Courtesy King Records

"Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud" is one of the best examples of James Brown's role in the Black Power movement of the late 1960s. The song features a children's chorus that helps Brown perform the chorus in call-and-response style. The children were from the Los Angeles Watts neighborhood and the city of Compton. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame named the song one of the 500 that shaped rock and roll. "Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud" spent six weeks at #1 on the R&B chart.

of 10

"Mother Popcorn (Part 1)" - 1969

James Brown - Mother Popcorn, Part 1
James Brown - "Mother Popcorn, Part 1". Courtesy King Records

In 1968 James Brown named one of his onstage dances the "Popcorn," and it proceeded to be a self-created minor empire of songs for the next 2 years. "Mother Popcorn" is the biggest hit single from the popcorn craze, but it was far from the last of the popcorn songs. "The Popcorn," "Low Down Popcorn," and "Let a Man Come in and Do the Popcorn" all reached the pop singles chart. Other artists released variants such as "Honky Tonk Popcorn" and "Butter Your Popcorn" with James Brown blending dance crazes on his album track "Mashed Potato Popcorn." "Mother Popcorn" topped the R&B singles chart.

Watch Video

of 10

"Super Bad (Part 1 & Part 2)" - 1970

James Brown - Super Bad
James Brown - Super Bad. Courtesy King Records

"Super Bad" is the centerpiece of the Super Bad album which featured longer, extended cuts of jamming and stream-of-consciousness performance. The song was originally recorded in three parts. The album version extends to a full nine minutes long. "Super Bad" topped the R&B singles chart. James Brown's shout "Watch me!" is sampled on the UK release of the 1987 pop hit "Pump Up the Volume" by MARRS.

of 10

"Licking Stick, Licking Stick (Part 1)" - 1968

James Brown - Licking Stick, Licking Stick, Part 1
James Brown - "Licking Stick, Licking Stick, Part 1". Courtesy King Records

This song is another of James Brown's powerful funk workouts. It has the distinction of being the first stereo single released by King Records. The "licking stick" in the lyrics refers to a stick used to give corporal punishment or a "licking." "Licking Stick, Licking Stick" peaked at #2 on the R&B singles chart.