Chimerical Chauvinism: “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World”

“Chauvinism is a balm for men’s fear and insecurities”

– Unknown

The word “man” appears three times in the title of James Brown’s classic “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World”, underscoring Mr. Brown’s hard-line declaration about who he believes rules the proverbial roost. Ultimately, this braggadocio dissolves into frustrated lament at discovering those assertions of male superiority sinking into the quicksands of unsustainability.

Bold claims about masculine achievement overflow the first verses of the song. “Man made the cars that take us over the road. Man made the train…Man made the electric light to take us out of the dark.” For the skeptics, Mr. Brown throws in a biblical reference as if to seal the argument: “Man made the boat for the water like Noah made the Ark.”

As the song progresses, the hubris gives way to concession steeped in defiance: “This is a man’s world! But it would be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl.” Weeping orchestral strings and a Greek chorus of female singers cast pity upon Mr. Brown’s conundrum as Luciano Pavarotti’s operatic tenor soars into the heavens, tragedizing the passing of the chauvinism once held so dearly by Mr. Brown. At performance’s end, the audience’s applause seems less about appreciating the magnificence of the music and more about saluting the valor which said chauvinism showed in the face of inevitable demise.

Written by James Brown and Betty Jean Newsome

Live version featuring Luciano Pavarotti on the album Pavarotti: The Greatest Hits

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