Monday, December 25, 2006

Farewell to the Godfather

James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, died yesterday at the age of 73, after being taken to the hospital on Sunday in Atlanta, Georgia with pneumonia.

Leave to James Brown to pass away on Christmas Day...and close to where his whole incredible journey started out.

James Brown was born in Barnwell, South Carolina, on May 3, 1933. The first song he recorded with his group, the Famous Flames was `Please, Please, Please', which became an instant hit and sold more than a million copies in 1956.

Seeing him live was always an experience. The amount of energy that poured out of the stage made a lot of the competition look positively enemic, particularly
those performers that attempted to emulate him - you just couldn't look at Mick Jagger quite the same after watching a James Brown show.

For a little audio sample of what I'm talking about, see if you can get your hands on a copy of `Live At The Apollo' - one of the best live recordings ever released. I dare you to listen to it sitting still.

I remember watching in the wings once when Brown did the `Tonite' show. It'd been a good 15 years since I'd seen him perform, and I was interested mainly for sentimental reasons...I'm a sucker for the old blues and r&b masters.

James Brown hit that tired TV audience with every bit of the same effect as if a small h-bomb had gone off in the studio. The old spine n' leg was still there,and his energy level was every bit as intense as it was when I'd seen him back in the day.

Mr. Dynamite was in his fifties when he did that show. No jivin'.

James Brown had a career that lasted 50 years and became one of the most influential entertainers of our times. He melded the gospel music of his childhood and the rhythm'n'blues he heard in the juke joints of the Atlanta where he grew up and essentially helped create soul music and funk...which morphed into the hip-hop, dance and urban styles of today. Hits like `Please, Please, Please',`Poppa's Got A Brand New Bag', `Night Train', `I Got You (I Feel Good)' and `Living in America' simply changed what popular music was all about.

So long Godfather. When the Lord made you, he broke the mold.

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