25 December 2006


James Brown
Godfather of Soul

Some years ago, sitting around drinking with some friends, we talked about what superpower we would wish for if we were offered one—just one—by a djinni. There was the ususal debate between flying and invisibility. I went for the gift of tongues. But a friend of mine came up with the real right answer.

“I want to be able to dance like James Brown.”

CNN offers a decent summa of the basics from the AP wire plus a few video clips. And I have Content Love Knowles describing going to a recent show of his.

His consummate skill as a showman has never served him better than now. Because he's always styled his act this way, distancing and elevating himself and his bandmates, keeping it specific, it doesn't feel all weird and mannered now, the way that, say, seeing the Rolling Stones might (can't say, haven't seen 'em live in 30 years, no, make that 25. And I'm not too interested, either). Lots of acts, when they get older, IF they're still doing music from their heyday rather than new stuff, end up seeming like tributes to their former selves. Somehow, James Brown manages to avoid that. Maybe it's the soul thing. I think it is.

Having seen Chuck Berry perform a similar miracle, I'd go with the soul thing, too.

Too bad he died in a hospital. Had it happened on stage, I honestly think he might have resurrected himself through sheer force of will.


Reya Mellicker said...

James Brown now enters the realm of the Mighty Dead. James Brown looms so large in my legend (I literally wore out the second record in the Live at the Apollo Theater set during high school) - wow - you can't imagine how grateful I am to have learned he died here. Thank you for the tribute.

Katherine Summer said...

James Brown bought me a manicure. No Joke.