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Listen to James Brown cover The Beatles song 'Something' in 1973


The Funk Soul Brother Number One, James Brown, had his own unique way of taking on songs. Brown could only sound like himself, whether it was in his intense emotional ballads or his wild and rhythmic salacious uptempo tracks. That meant that any song filtered through his signature style was going to come out sounding like it was always meant for Brown. Few artists could take away songs from their original owners like Brown.

But you can’t take anything away from The Beatles. You can match them, like Wilson Pickett’s southern fried take on ‘Hey Jude’, or radically reinvent them, like Joe Cocker’s reinterpretation of ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’ into a soul smash. But The Beatles were one of one – just like Brown, they could make cover tunes into their own signature songs as well. Just look at ‘Twist and Shout’ for proof.

So what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Magic, apparently, as Brown showed when he took on George Harrison’s signature love song ‘Something’ in 1973. Pretty much everyone played ‘Something’ at some point: Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen and Shirley Bassey all took on the song. But it was Brown’s version that made it all the way back to Harrison.

“It was one of his B-sides,” Harrison is quoted as saying in Bill Henry’s The George Harrison Encyclopedia. “I have it on my jukebox at home. It’s absolutely brilliant,” he added. ‘Something’ was indeed the B-side to Brown’s solo version of the song ‘Think’ that came out in 1973. Brown originally recorded the song with The Famous Flames in 1960 and performed a legendarily souped-up version on Live at the Apollo. He also recorded the song as a duet with Vicki Anderson in 1967, but it was his fourth recording of the song in 1973 that featured ‘Something’ on its flip side.

Brown’s ballads were just as equally impactful as his rave-ups. His voice strains, pleads, and damn near combusts as Brown contorts himself around Harrison’s central melody. The main difference here is that Brown transforms the song’s message of love into one of social consciousness, pleading for the listener to “believe in something”, rather than keeping it just to romantic love. It takes a massively talented artist to try and build on what The Beatles did, but Brown was the perfect man for the job, and his version a classic all of its own.

Check out Brown’s cover of ‘Something’ down below.