Top of page

Photo of sheet of notebook paper in a three-ring binder with song lyrics and musical notation written in blue pen
Notebook draft of "Feeling Good." Music Division.

“Feeling Good” About the Leslie Bricusse Collection

Share this post:

In the late spring of 1962, two young British songwriters were following up on their first hit play, “Stop the World — I Want to Get Off.”

The songwriting team — Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley — were up-by-the-bootstraps types, just hitting their 30s, and would become big stars. Bricusse, whose papers are now in the Library, would win two Oscars and one Grammy, writing or co-writing hits for everything from two James Bond films to “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” to “Victor/Victoria.”

But on this day — May 15, 1962 — none of that had happened yet.

Bricusse flipped open his notebook and sketched in a song they were putting together. It was set to be the 12th piece in their new musical, “The Roar of the Greasepaint — The Smell of the Crowd,” a comic allegory about class differences in Britain. The song was a minor piece for a minor character.

He called it “Feeling Good.” The play, with its awkward title and weighty subject, was only a modest hit on Broadway.

But that song! Its simple lyrics, rooted in sunshine and swagger, opening in a cappella clarity, were set off perfectly by brassy horns that saunter in on the second verse. It’s so malleable, so simple in emotion, that it became a template for a performer with a big voice and a big personality.

Nina Simone was one of the first, stamping it as an anthem of female sensuality and self-confidence in 1965. Bolstered by her unique vocals, it hit with the knowing power of a Maya Angelou poem.

Bird flying high

You know how I feel

Sun in the sky

You know how I feel

It quickly became one of her iconic songs and is still popular with millions; a flashy new music video of it was released in 2021, featuring four generations of Black women. Canadian balladeer Michael Bublé released his swanky version in 2005, gaining worldwide audiences and more than 238 million views on YouTube. Others? Plenty, in pop and jazz, by names such as John Coltrane, Sammy Davis Jr., George Michael and, yes, The Pussycat Dolls.

Not a bad day’s work for Bricusse and Newley in the spring of ’62. One hopes they took the rest of the day off.

Subscribe to the blog— it’s free!

Comments (3)

  1. Thank you for shining a Library Light on this moment of popular music history. I wish Ella had recorded a Bricusse/Newley Songbook…
    Fran Morris Rosman
    The Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation

  2. Contributor to support citizens of humanity in the scientific community and service

  3. I’m very happy and pleasures all Library of Congress community especially about our relationships,you are storing all documents of USA history till established USA governments in 1783 that Improves more developments of USA economy,politics and defenses departments and created modern advanced technology in America in generations.

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.