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Song Stories

“It's a Man's Man's Man's World”

James Brown | 1966

Playing on the title of the 1963 comedy blockbuster flick It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, James Brown's song began its musical life as the single "I Cried," by Tammi Terrell, released on his Try Me Records label, before he used the same dramatic melody for his own classic. The lyric concern male dominance with a caveat -- "that it would be nothing without a woman or a girl." The idea for the song was sprung from something Brown's then-girlfriend Betty Jean Newsome said. "And riding along in the car, I wrote 'It's a Man's World,' but I let her have a piece, because that is where the idea came from," said Brown about sharing the songwriting credit with Newsome. Its tenderness is also evidenced by the number of men and women who've seen fit to record it since.

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Song Stories

“Nightshift”

The Commodores | 1984

The year after soul legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson died, songwriter Dennis Lambert asked members of the Commodores to give him a tape of ideas. "And the one from Walter Orange has this wonderful bass line," said co-writer Franne Golde. "Plus the lyric, 'Marvin, he was a friend of mine' ... Within 10 minutes, we had decided it should be something like a modern R&B version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven,' and I just said, 'Nightshift.'" This tribute to the recently deceased musicians was the band's only hit without Lionel Richie, who had left for a solo career.

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