Saturday Sayings: Respect

Respect

In many ways, this saying (or, to be more accurate, song lyric) was the inspiration for my Saturday Sayings feature. For years, I have loved The Staples Singers’ song “Respect Yourself”. It has a R&B / Memphis soul sound that makes you have to get up and dance when you hear it.

A few years ago, I actually took the time to listen to the lyrics:

If you disrespect anybody that you run in to
How in the world do you think anybody’s s’posed to respect you
If you don’t give a heck ’bout the man with the Bible in his hand, y’all
Just get out the way, and let the gentleman do his thing
You the kind of gentleman that want everything your way, yeah
Take the sheet off your face, boy, it’s a brand new day

Respect yourself, respect yourself, respect yourself, respect yourself
If you don’t respect yourself
Ain’t nobody gonna give a good cahoot, na na na na
Respect yourself, respect yourself, respect yourself, respect yourself

If you’re walking ’round think’n that the world owes you something ’cause you’re here
You goin’ out the world backwards like you did when you first come here yeah
Keep talkin’ bout the president, won’t stop air pollution
Put your hand on your mouth when you cough, that’ll help the solution
Oh, you cuss around women and you don’t even know their names, no
Then you’re dumb enough to think that’ll make you a big ol’ man

Respect yourself, respect yourself, respect yourself, respect yourself
If you don’t respect yourself
Ain’t nobody gonna give a good cahoot, na na na na
Respect yourself, respect yourself, respect yourself, respect yourself

Respect yourself, respect yourself, respect yourself, respect yourself
Respect yourself, yeah yeah respect yourself, respect yourself

yeah, respect yourself
You oughta you oughta respect yourself yeah, respect yourself

According to Wikipedia, “The song was written by Stax Records singer Luther Ingram and Stax house songwriter Mack Rice. Ingram, who was frustrated with the state of the world at the time, told Rice “black folk need to learn to respect themselves.” Rice liked the comment so much that he built a funk groove around it, then gave the song to the Staples”.

The entry goes on to say that the “confrontational song had resonance for a burgeoning self-empowerment movement for African-Americans during the post-civil-rights-movement 1970s, as well as women demanding more respect during those same years.”

The song “Respect Yourself” is probably one of the best examples of what Rolling Stone calls “the Staples’ commitment to making secular music with a message“. For me, I have even more respect for the group knowing that they always remembered where they came from (gospel music).

— Carla