Tuesday, December 26, 2006

James Brown, RIP: 1933-2006


In honor of a colleague who is a self-proclaimed "James Brown man to the bone" I enter this brief post acknowledging the passing of this legend this past Christmas morning. Brown was a mix of contradictions, vulnerable, cocky, hypermasculine, but with a plaintive falsetto that he stopped using in the mid-60s. Big on self-empowerment and self-discipline, he struggled with drug-use and incidents of domestic battery. He also recorded a jazz album that is rarely talked about, nor is his great love of jazz. A supporter of black liberation and Richard Nixon, at the same time, he was something of a progressive capitalist whose sentiments about power and history could be summarized in his theoretical throw-down regarding the difference between emphasizing the 1 versus the 2, or the upbeat versus the downbeat, which previously was the difference between white and black music (white rock was thought to ride on the "1" and "3"), but Brown reclaimed the "1" as a place of empowerment. All but eliminating melodic modulation in his work, Brown instead pushing the rhythm to the center throughout his instrumentation and arrangements. He started off in gospel, which he argued was the place where the "1" emphasis originated, and took much of that work into his muscular R&B. The Boston Globe has a thoughtful obituary and today NPR commentator Terri Gross aired a tribute program with a number of interviews with Brown, and others including Bruce Tucker, who collaborated with Brown on his 1986 autobiography, James Brown: The Godfather of Soul, as well as with former band members Maceo Parker and Bootsy Collins:
NPR Christmas 2006 coverage by Renée Montagne
NPR: Terri Gross' December 26, 2006 Tribute to James Brown
90+ MP3 Minutes of NPR's Live Concert 2/28/2006 show, "James Brown in Concert"
Maceo Parker Remembers James Brown
Interview with Bootsy Collins about his musical path, including learning from James Brown
Obit from Chicago Tribune's music critic Greg Kot
Obit from Boston Globe (you may have to register to gain access)
Breath of Life's archived discussion of James Brown's "Cold Sweat" and various covers & JB's cover of "Georgia on My Mind" (unfortunately, without the MP3 jukebox 'cause that just takes too much juice to archive)

5 Comments:

At 5:01 AM, Blogger Mark said...

Rejoice! Hear the news of the coming return of the Godfather!

James Brown seeks disciples to spread the good news of the Godfather's return and of his redemption of Soul!

Join the Church of James Brown, and be forever known as a Disciple of Soul.

Repeat the words:

I believe that James Brown died on Christmas day to redeem Soul.

I believe that James Brown is still the Hardest Working Man in Show Business.

I believe that James Brown worked hard to spread the Gospel of Soul, and now, he's returned to the cosmic mothership to preach his gospel from on high, eternally united with the Father of Soul, Brother Ray, who plays keyboards righteously.

I believe that James Brown will return to the Apollo three days after his death to proclaim the power and the glory of Soul. Verily, he shall also be on television, to spread his gospel to the world.

Will you see the light of James Brown?
Will you hear, bear witness to, and spread the message of James Brown, the Soul Brother Number One?
Will you let James Brown in to your heart to purify and redeem Soul?

 
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