I can’t remember who I was debating the first time I came across the video featuring the bold and confident dancer who hopped on stage during James Brown’s performance of “Super Bad” on Soul Train, but I’m certain the reason for the dispute was about a James Brown lyric. (I’m also certain the person I was debating was white because what Black person argues about James Brown’s lyrics?)
To understand why I ended up looking for lyrics to one of James Brown’s most iconic songs, you must first know I love quoting “Super Bad.” Of all the quotable James Brown songs, this is by far the song I quote the most. And there is a very specific line in the song that I love to throw out whenever I’m bragging about something I did.
That lyric? “I jump back, I wanna kiss myself.”
Here’s the entire verse:
An a, an I don’t need no one else
Sometimes I feel so nice, good God
I jump back, I wanna kiss myself
I’ve got soul, huh, and I’m super bad, hey
I love this line so much. James Brown is essentially saying that he’s feeling himself so hard, that he is so fierce, he literally wants to kiss himself.
Now, I love to drop this line when given the opportunity. Exhibit A:
And sometimes, if I’m saying it to you in person, I will even kiss the back of both hands while saying it just to become the living embodiment of James Brown’s lyrics (and also to be goofy. Have you ever jumped back and kissed yourself? It’s fun). It was one of those times that triggered the debate. The person I was discussing the song with didn’t believe it was an actual line from a James Brown song, that it was more likely from another iconic moment that also brings me #BlackJoy: Eddie Murphy impersonating the Godfather of Soul in that SNL skit with the hot tub.
So when looking up the lyrics for “Super Bad,” I came across the video of the Godfather on Soul Train and I thought what better way to prove I’m right and show how brilliant Murphy’s impression of James Brown was than by showing the Godfather himself performing the song.
I wasn’t ready for her. Now, I grew up watching Soul Train and had seen plenty of dance moves. But it wasn’t so much her dancing ability—it was her exuberance and her utter joy at dancing for the Godfather of Soul. In that moment, she just looked like she was fully free and that made me feel free, too.
In writing this post, I decided to use the Google machine to see if there were any stories about her, and it turns out, she’s even more badass than I thought.
Damita Jo Freeman was first spotted by a Soul Train dance scout when she was a 17-year-old ballerina dancing at a Los Angeles club called Climax. In her second appearance on the show, R&B singer Joe Tex grabbed her on stage to dance while he performed his 1972 hit, “I Gotcha,” which helped her earn a permanent spot on the show.
She was paired up with Don Campbell, the father of “locking” who just passed away last year, and the couple helped introduce Soul Train viewers to what would become one of the cornerstone dances in hip-hop.
So thank you, Damita Jo, for bringing me so much joy and for showing me what it means to be free.