6. It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World

May 6, 2009

James Brown, one of my favorite soul singers, has a song that definitively explains what kind of world we live in: a man’s world. Through specific illustrations in his lyrics, he defines parts of our world that revolve around what men can do, what men have done, and how others need men for things:

It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World:
This is a man’s world, this is a man’s world,
But it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl.

You see, man made the cars to take us over the road,
Man made the trains to carry heavy load,s
Man made electric light to take us out of the dark,
Man made the boat for the water, like Noah made the ark.

This is a man’s, a man’s, a man’s world,
But it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl.

Man thinks about a little baby girls and a baby boys,
Man makes then happy ’cause man makes them toys,
And after man has made everything, everything he can,
You know that man makes money to buy from other man.

This is a man’s world,
But it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl.

He’s lost in the wilderness,
He’s lost in bitterness

James Brown’s man is the “Man as a Wage Earner,” from Chapter 10’s male stereotypes. This man’s success is in his ability “to earn a good wage” (p. 271). While Chapter 10 takes the lens of “the paycheck becomes a measure of self-worth,” it can be slightly twisted into reflecting man’s ability to dominate the land and water (by roads and boats), to make radical change (through electricity), and his ability to make people happy because “man makes them toys.” It is the ability to satisfy or change through materialism, which is a central theme through both verses in this song. The objective, competitive, and hierarchical nature of the “man’s world” James Brown describes reinforces masculine traits (p. 238).

However, despite all the pride and accomplishments of men in this “man’s world,” James Brown says that it would all be nothing without a woman. It seems to be completely counter to the idea of a wage-earning man, but it raises the question: if a man’s nature is to compete, why would he compete if he had no one to impress?

SOURCES: Brown, J., & Newsome, B. J. (1966). It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World [Recorded by James Brown and the Famous Flames]. On Single [CD]. Cincinnati: King.
Gamble, T. K., & Gamble, M. W. (2003). The Gender Communication Connection. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

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