A big part of the story of the Super Bowl has been the ads millions of viewers will be watching Sunday. It’s a chance for small companies to make a big splash, and big companies to creatively sell the product you’ve been buying from them for years.
Programming will include star power like David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson, with songs that feature Bono and Sarah McLachlan trying to win your consumer minds and hearts.
And then there will be one standard — perhaps the gold standard — in music that moves product, the song that will be used for the 33rd time to move product:
Chevrolet will be selling cars on Super Bowl Sunday with a familiar song, one of the great soul/funk tunes of the early 1970s.
You don’t ever need help from nobody else.
All you’ve got to do now.
The song written by Charles Wright and performed by him and his Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band in 1971 still resonates in 2014, with Chevrolet the latest company to use the song in a commercial.
“It just connects with people, even today,” Wright said. “It’s just about keeping it real, and it’s hard to find people who do that today.”
Whatever you do
do it good.
Whatever you do
do it good.
The song particularly relates to sports and today’s athletes. The Los Angeles Lakers have used it as their pregame anthem. The Olympics has used it to promote the Games.
You could argue that Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman was doing just that with his postgame outburst after the NFC title contest.
The first company to use “Express Yourself” in an ad campaign was Nike in 1986. Since then, Nokia, the PGA, the NBA, Burger King, Apple, Coffee Mate, Kohl’s, Kinkos and Tide, among others, have used “Express Yourself” to get the attention of consumers.
The Chevy ad campaign, which aired during the conference championship games and will be broadcast again Sunday during the Super Bowl, is the 33rd time “Express Yourself” has been used to move product.
It’s also been used in 32 different films, including a classic scene with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in the movie “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.”
Wright was born in Clarksdale, Miss., in 1940. His family moved to Los Angeles in the early 1950s, where he attended Manual Arts High School and got into singing with doo-wop group. He got into the music business as a talent developer and was responsible for the hit song, “Those Oldies But Goodies” by Little Caesar and the Romans in 1961.
He formed various bands over the next seven years before the first version of the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band was formed in 1968. He came up with “Express Yourself” while performing at a concert at Texas A&M University.
“The crowd was really crazy one night, stomping and clapping, so I yelled, ‘Express yourself,’” Wright said. “They went wild. I said to myself, ‘I’ve got to get to work on writing this,’ and that’s how it came about.”
Wright released the song on Warner Brothers records as a single in 1971; it reached No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 list and became a memorable tune.
“I thought ‘Loveland’ [another hit by the band] would be the classic, but ‘Express Yourself’ was the one that lasted, and I’m glad it did,” he said.
It became a cash register for Wright, who still owns 75 percent of the rights to the song, when Nike first used it, and it’s been paying off ever since. “Believe me, I really needed it then,” he said.
Wright said he still performs occasionally and just released a CD called “Let’s Make Love Tonight.” He is writing a book about his life. Maybe they’ll be a chapter about the greatest lyrics in the song:
It’s not what you look like,
when you’re doin’ what you’re doin’.
It’s what you’re doin’ when you’re doin’
what you look like you’re doin’!
What does that mean?
“It’s not self-explanatory?” Wright answered back, laughing. “It’s about not jiving. If you say you will do the job, don’t pretend to do the job.”
A Super Bowl message for the times.
Some people have everything, and other people don’t.
But everything don’t mean a thing if it ain’t the thing you want.
• Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio and espn980.com