On February 16, 1966, James Brown recorded “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” In a matter of months the song would top the Billboard R&B Charts and hit number 8 on Billboard’s Hot 100. The ballad soon became a staple of Brown’s live shows and one of the crown jewels of his repertoire. What were the lyrics to one of the most popular songs in America? This is a man’s, man’s, man’s world / but it wouldn’t be nothing without a woman or a girl. These days we can look back and laugh (or at least try), but the sad truth is that when Brown’s big single hit the airwaves, it was a man’s world.
Women were an anomaly in the workforce. They were relegated to clerical work, to homemaking or to childrearing. Vast swathes of society were limited exclusively to men, whose superiority was as tacitly assumed as the “fact” that women were meant to raise children, not to be breadwinners, innovators or barons of industry. The world was a big ole boys club, something James Brown and the nation could sing about without even blinking.
Whether the Godfather of Soul wore the blinders of his time, was truly as sexist as the song makes him seem or just couldn’t see the tides of change rolling in, he was right about one thing: this world would be nothing without a woman or a girl.
Even Brown’s hit single “”It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” would be nothing without a woman or a girl. As it turns out, the very song was written by Betty Jean Newsome, James Brown’s girlfriend and co-writer. She wrote the tune to describe the way men see women and apparently she hit the nail right on the head. Years later, Betty Jean Newsome would take James Brown to court for his failure to pay her the royalties she was owed.
That it was a woman who wrote “”It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” is about as ironic as it gets, but it really shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, hardworking, talented, creative and incredible women have been kicking ass forever, whether anybody cared to acknowledge them or not. It’s only in recent years that the Betty Jean Newsomes of the world have begun to get the credit they deserve- that workplace inequality, gender discrimination and sexism started losing a foothold in society. There is still a long way to go, but if James Brown were alive today, he’d have a harder time proving to any of us that it’s really a man’s world we live in.
In the spirit of leaving that man’s world behind us, Wine Awesomeness presents to you a month devoted to the females that make the wine world tick, the delicious wines that ladies from all walks of life have created and the innovations they’ve blessed our brains and taste buds with. On thebacklabel, October 2015 is all about the ladies.
It’s no shock that wine has been enriched, enhanced, reimagined and pushed forward by women, but it’s still worth celebrating. With the help of some fantastic vino, op-eds, stories and wine wisdom from awesome women, celebrating is exactly what we intend to do.