Cold Sweat

Cold Sweat
"Cold Sweat"

The Cold Sweat album
Single by James Brown
from the album Cold Sweat
A-side Cold Sweat - Pt. 1
B-side Cold Sweat - Pt. 2
Released July 1967
Format 7" (stereo)
Recorded May 1967 at King Studios, Cincinnati, Ohio
Genre Funk, soul
Length 7:30 (album version)
Label King
Writer(s) James Brown
Alfred Ellis
Producer James Brown

"Cold Sweat" is a song performed by James Brown and written by his bandleader Alfred "Pee Wee" Ellis. Brown recorded it in May 1967. An edited version of "Cold Sweat" released as a two-part single on King Records was a #1 R&B hit, and reached number seven on the Pop Singles chart.[1] A complete version of the song, over 7 minutes long, was included on the album Cold Sweat.

In the song's lyrics Brown protests that he doesn't care about his woman's past or faults, and testifies that with even her slightest display of affection toward him "I break out in a cold sweat."



In an interview with Down Beat magazine, Ellis described the circumstances of the song's creation:

After one of the shows, one night somewhere, James called me into the dressing room and grunted a bass line of a rhythmic thing (demonstrates), which turned out to be "Cold Sweat." I was very much influenced by Miles Davis and had been listening to "So What" six or seven years earlier and that crept into the making of "Cold Sweat." You could call it subliminal, but the horn line is based on Miles Davis' "So What." I wrote that on the bus between New York and Cincinnati. The next day we pulled up in front of King Records studio, got off the bus, got in the studio, set up, and I went over the rhythm with the band. By the time we got the groove going, James showed up, added a few touches—changed the guitar part, which made it real funky—had the drummer do something different. He was a genius at it. Between the two of us, we put it together one afternoon. He put the lyrics on it. The band set up in a semicircle in the studio with one microphone. It was recorded live in the studio. One take. It was like a performance. We didn't do overdubbing.[2]


Like "Out of Sight" (1964) and "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" (1965), "Cold Sweat" was a watershed event in the evolution of funk music. While those songs were both based on a conventional twelve bar blues chord progression, "Cold Sweat" has only one definite chord change, a move to the subtonic at the bridge. As in the earlier songs, all the band's instruments (horns, guitars, etc.) are used percussively in "Cold Sweat", and overwhelming emphasis is put on the first beat of each measure ("on the one"). The main drum part is a two-bar pattern with a snare hit on the two and four beats (a standard 4/4 rock pattern) with a simple variation: the four beat hit in the first measure is delayed by one eighth note. This snare pattern contributed greatly to the funky feel of the arrangement. It was copied, often with embellishments, in later James Brown songs and numerous songs by other musical artists.

"Cold Sweat" is the first recording in which Brown calls for a drum solo ("give the drummer some") from Clyde Stubblefield, beginning the tradition of rhythmic "breaks" that would become important in dance music. It also features a saxophone solo by Maceo Parker.


Sometimes cited as the first true funk song,[3][4] "Cold Sweat" was recognized as a radical departure from pop music conventions at the time of its release. Jerry Wexler recalled that "'Cold Sweat' deeply affected the musicians I knew. It just freaked them out. No one could get a handle on what to do next."[5] Cliff White described it as "divorced from other forms of popular music."[6] Some musicians criticized it as simplistic. Fred Wesley recalled that before he joined Brown's band he "was very unimpressed with ['Cold Sweat']. . . It only had one change, the words made no sense at all, and the bridge was musically incorrect."[7] Critic Dave Marsh, while acknowledging the song as pivotal, has argued that "the post-'Cold Sweat' de-emphasis of melody" was partly responsible for a "decline in the number of genuinely memorable songs" in the years since its release.[8]

Brown would continue to develop the rhythmically intense, harmonically static template pioneered on "Cold Sweat" in later recordings such as "I Got the Feelin'", "Mother Popcorn", "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine", and "Super Bad".

Like many of Brown's funk hits, "Cold Sweat" has been extensively sampled by hip hop DJs and producers.

Other versions

"Cold Sweat" has been covered by various bands and musicians, notably by Mongo Santamaría in 1968. Brown himself recorded a jazz-inflected version of "Cold Sweat" with the Dee Felice Trio for his 1969 album Gettin' Down to It.


  • James Brown - lead vocal

with the James Brown Orchestra:

Produced by James Brown

Chart positions

Chart (1967) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 7
U.S. Billboard R&B 1
Preceded by
"Baby I Love You" by Aretha Franklin
Billboard Hot R&B Singles number-one single
September 9, 1967 – September 23, 1967 (three weeks)
Succeeded by
"Funky Broadway" by Wilson Pickett


  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 84. 
  2. ^ James Brown's Musicians Reflect On His Legacy. Down Beat. Retrieved February 15, 2007.
  3. ^ Nelson George, The Death of Rhythm & Blues (New York: Pantheon Books, 1988), 101.
  4. ^ Rickey Vincent, Funk: The Music, The People, and The Rhythm of The One (New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 1996), 123.
  5. ^ Vincent, Funk, 123.
  6. ^ Peter Guralnick, Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom (New York: HarperCollins, 1986), 242.
  7. ^ Fred Wesley Jr., Hit Me, Fred: Recollections of a Sideman (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002), 80.
  8. ^ Dave Marsh, The Heart of Rock & Soul : The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made (New York: New American Library, 1989), 451.


  • Leeds, Alan M., and Harry Weinger (1991). Star Time: Song by Song. In Star Time (pp. 46–53) [CD liner notes]. London: Polydor Records.
  • White, Cliff (1991). Discography. In Star Time (pp. 54–59) [CD liner notes]. London: Polydor Records.

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Cold sweat — is a type of perspiration also referred to as diaphoresis. It may also refer to: In music: Cold Sweat (James Brown song) Cold Sweat (Thin Lizzy song) In film: Cold Sweat (1970 film), a film starring Charles Bronson Cold Sweat (1993 film), a… …   Wikipedia

  • cold sweat — cold sweats N COUNT: usu sing, usu in/into N If you are in a cold sweat, you are sweating and feel cold, usually because you are very afraid or nervous. He awoke from his sleep in a cold sweat …   English dictionary

  • cold sweat — noun singular a nervous or worried feeling that causes you to SWEAT although you feel cold …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • cold sweat — If something brings you out in a cold sweat, it frightens you a lot …   The small dictionary of idiomes

  • cold sweat — n perspiration accompanied by feelings of chill or cold and usu. induced or accompanied by dread, fear, or shock …   Medical dictionary

  • cold sweat — n. perspiration accompanied by a cold, clammy feeling …   English World dictionary

  • cold sweat — ► NOUN ▪ a state of sweating induced by nervousness or illness …   English terms dictionary

  • cold sweat — noun the physical condition of concurrent perspiration and chill; associated with fear (Freq. 1) • Hypernyms: ↑physical condition, ↑physiological state, ↑physiological condition • Part Holonyms: ↑fear, ↑fearfulness, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • cold sweat — noun (singular) a reaction by your body when you are nervous or afraid, in which you sweat 1 (1) but still feel cold: The thought of the trial made him break out in a cold sweat …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • cold sweat —    If something brings you out in a cold sweat, it frightens you a lot.   (Dorking School Dictionary) …   English Idioms & idiomatic expressions

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