Meaning of Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag – James Brown

For fifty years of creative activity, James Brown (James Brown) has changed several genres. He started as a gospel singer, then breathed new life into rhythm and blues, and later became one of the pioneers of soul, earning the nickname Godfather of Soul (“Godfather of Soul”).

He also entered the history of modern music as the founder of funk, which had a significant impact on the development of rock, hip-hop and other areas. One of the first funk tracks is the composition Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag (“Daddy has a brand new bag”). The article tells how the famous song was written, what it is about and why James chose such a funny name.

History of creation

In 1964, Brown released the track Out of Sight on the Smash label, in breach of his contract with King Records, which led to a lengthy legal battle. As a result, Smash retained the right to release only instrumental versions of James’ songs.

Brown signed a new contract with King, having achieved more favorable terms. The studio was experiencing financial difficulties, so it was necessary to hurry up with the release of a new single. Based on Out of Sight, James changed the melody and rewrote the lyrics. This is how Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag was born.

The meaning of the song

The text refers to a middle-aged man who has chosen to dance in a nightclub. He took with him a new bag, which he boasts to others. But listeners understand that we are not talking about a bag at all.

James Brown and Mick JaggerJames Brown and Mick Jagger © Bob Bonis Archive

Writer and journalist Nelson George explained the meaning of the phrase in the title:

When you said: “You have a brand new bag”, “What bag am I in?” or “Which bag are you in?” – it was slang, like: “What do you do? What are you thinking about? What motivates you? So when he said, “Dad’s got a brand new bag,” he meant, “I’m motivated by something completely different. I’m doing something else.” And so it was. It really was a departure from the previous course and a move in a new direction, as he took the emphasis off the melody in a way that the soul music schools in Memphis, Chicago and Detroit did not.

NPR Music, 2000

Nelson George shared his thoughts on the meaning of Papa’s Got a Bright New Bag:

It is unlike any of his ballads in which he begs a woman to return. He is very, very confident, very, very optimistic, very, very cheerful and excited.

And it was a great time for black people. That year the Bill of Civil Rights was passed. All over the country, in different places, in different ways, desegregation took place. The positive energy was really felt, that we have made changes and continue to make changes, that we cannot be stopped, that our cause is just.

In this respect, the song and its lyrics could be seen as a metaphor. In the sixties, your bag meant in slang who you were, how you perceived the world, what you believed in. A brand new bag for the Pope meant that a change was taking place in his life.

NPR Music, 2000


Brown recorded Papa’s Got a Bright New Bag in one take. He did not have time to learn the text and read it from the sheet. At the beginning of the original recording, he can be heard saying, “Damn, this is full of words.”

The original version was about seven minutes long, but this format was not suitable for radio. Almost the entire intro was cut out of the song, and it was divided into three parts (the second one came out on the back of the record). In addition, the composition was slightly sped up.

Release and achievements

The single Papa’s Got a Bright New Bag was released in June 1965. It climbed to number eight on the Billboard Hot 100.

Papa’s Got a Bright New Bag was awarded a Grammy for Best Rhythm & Blues Recording.

The composition was included in the lists of the five hundred best songs of all time according to Rolling Stone and New Musical Express magazines. She is inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Saxophonist Maceo Parker, who participated in the recording of the first version of Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag, explained the success of Brown and his work:

I think it was just a little more raw, a little more urban, a little more street. She is [песня] was a lot easier. And the simpler the music – it’s all about the rhythms – the more people will hear it, the more people will be able to understand it, and the more people will love it, because it’s not complicated. It is uncomplicated … It is simple, but groovy.

NPR Music, 2000

Music video

Watch the video clip of Papa’s Got a Bright New Bag – James Brown.

Listen to James Brown sing Papa’s Got a Bright New Bag with Lenny Kravitz.

Cover versions

The composition was performed by several popular artists. So sang Papa’s Got a Bright New Bag Otis Redding (Otis Redding).

Next is a beautiful jazzy version of Papa’s Got a Bright New Bag performed by Dr. Saxlove.

Interesting Facts

  • Papa’s Got a Bright New Bag became James Brown’s first top 10 single on the Billboard Hot 100.
  • The song was included in the soundtrack of the film “Mrs. Doubtfire” (Mrs. Doubtfire) with Robin Williams and Sally Field in the lead roles.
  • It is also featured in the Beat the Devil video promoting BMW cars.

Papa’s Got a Bright New Bag Lyrics James Brown

Come here sister, Papa’s in the swing
He ain’t too hip, about that new breed babe
He ain’t no drag
Papa’s got a brand new bag

Come here mama, and dig this crazy scene
He’s not too fancy, but his line is pretty clean
He ain’t no drag.
Papa’s got a brand new bag

He’s doing the Jerk,
He’s doing the Fly
Don’t play him cheap ’cause you know he ain’t shy
He’s doing the Monkey, the Mashed Potatoes,
Jump back Jack, See you later alligator.

Come here sister
Papa’s in the swing
He ain’t too hip now
But I can dig that new breed babe;
He ain’t no drag
He’s got a brand new bag

Oh papa! He’s doing the Jerk
Papa, he’s doing the Jerk
He’s doing the twist, just like this,
He’s doing the Fly every day and every night
The thing’s, like the Boomerang.
Hey, come on
Hey! Hey, come on
Hey! Hey, he’s uptight, out of sight,
Come on. Hey! Hey!

Papa’s Got a Bright New Bag Lyrics James Brown

Come here sis daddy swing dance
He don’t know much about this new style, baby
He’s not boring
Daddy has a new bag.

Come here mommy and enjoy the amazing view
He is not very fashionable, but keeps the style
He’s not boring
Daddy’s got a new bag

He dances Jerk
He dances Fly
Do not mock him, because he is not from a timid dozen.
He dances Monkey, Mashed Potatoes2
Back off boy, see you later man

Come here sister
daddy swing dance
He’s not very stylish.
But I love this new style, baby
He’s not boring
He has a new bag

Oh daddy! He dances Jerk
Daddy he dance Jerk
He dances the twist, like this
He dances Fly every day and every night
This dance is like boomerang
Hey come on
Hey! Hey come on
Hey! Hey, he’s penniless – he’s got to go
Let’s. Hey! Hey!

  • It means a new style, a new way of life.
  • Types of dances.
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