Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I'm Going Away Tonight...

It goes without saying that the death of James Brown is a moment in time which must be respectfully recognized and observed. It's practically inconceivable to imagine what soul, rock, jazz, R&B, disco, funk, and hip-hop would have been without the many talents and pervasive influence of this legendary icon.

It's predictable that over the course of the next several weeks, thousands of music writers and fans will dissect this man's character, and analyze his numerous achievements through a microscopic lens. His personal life will be meticulously scrutinized, as will the validity of his entire musical legacy. He will stand accused of beating, cheating, lying, stealing, and just about any other transgression you can possibly imagine. He will be ridiculed for things like those crazy-looking mugshots, his tattoed eyebrows, and even his outspoken support for crazy-ass Richard Nixon. I don't know about you, but I'm bored with these articles and media segments already.

No matter how great or small our accomplishments, at the end of the day, we are all still just human beings. Nothing less, and certainly nothing more. Although he had character defects just like the rest of us, JB left us with some invaluable gifts of music, rhythm, and dance. I can imagine no greater tribute than sharing a few of these treasures with you:

"There Was A Time"
Just like the song "Think", JB recorded more than one version of this particular track. This one is from his Gettin' Down To It LP, and showcases Brown's extraordinary ability to blend several musical styles within the space of a single recording. This song is highly recommended listening for fans of soul, jazz, and/or funk music.

"Down And Out In New York City"
This track appeared on Black Caesar, a soundtrack to a blaxploitation film that JB released in 1973. This was a very prolific and pivotal point in the Godfather's career. The same year he also released another soundtrack (Slaughter's Big Rip-Off), and his much-heralded LP, The Payback. The emotional perspective on this particular track may come as somewhat of a surprise to "fans" who've only seen the "I Got You (I Feel Good)" side of Brown's discography.

"Get Up, Get Into It And Get Involved"
If the origin of this post hadn't arisen so unexpectedly, I could have used some degree of forethought to offer a more thorough exploration of the multi-faceted nature of JB's musical career. That said, I included this final track to illustrate yet another distinct element of Brown's musical legacy---his ability to make us move. From the dancefloor to the socio-political world around us, JB encouraged us to get out there and do our thing to the fullest extent. Ever notice how many of his tracks include a command to "get up"...and do something??? Like so many of his songs, this particular track has been sampled by a cornucopia of hip-hop artists---most recently borrowed for the Nas joint "Where Are They Now?". In the late '80s and early '90s, Public Enemy and Big Daddy Kane sampled the hell out of it, and The Beastie Boys, Organized Konfusion, Special Ed, and Kutmasta Kurt also took their respective turns utilizing elements of the track.

Although I'm still mourning the loss of one of music's most wonderful and spirited personalities, I'm also comforted in knowing that James Brown will live forever in terms of his influence on music and popular culture. There is no doubt he will be missed, but I have a feeling he would want us to quit cryin', "get on the good foot" and let the celebration begin...

Word From Your Moms (And The Godfather Of Soul):

"The one thing that can solve most of our problems is dancing"---James Brown


Anonymous said...

Beautiful tribute. I still don't know where to begin in trying to eulogize his legacy, but this is about as artful as I could hope for.

Thanks for a top year in bloggery, and RIP godfather of soul.


Trent said...

Please don't hate me for this -- I'm only offering my 2 cents.

First, I'm a fan of your blog.
Second, this is a very nice tribute to James Brown.

Now, here's my beef (LOL).

"There Was a Time" is a great James Brown song. However, you posted a MP3 of a jazzy, schmaltzy version of it. I don't why, but below is the James Brown version:

On the song, you can feel the rhythmic power of the "groove" -- which James is the creator and founder of.

Again, a great tribute. But when I heard that MP3, I almost went into shock.

You are great writer and music historian.


Trent said...

Oh, my bad. I didn't know James Brown recorded a jazz version of "There Was a Time." I'm quite sure his Gettin' Down To It LP is one of most overlooked albums - not because it was bad.

So forgive me on my comments earlier, I shouldn't have question your MP3 selection. (LOL)

I still think its a schmaltzy and boring version of the song. I prefer the original track. But the song (and the albim) shows that James Brown's versatility goes way beyond just simply soul music.

Again, a great tribute.

Anonymous said...

hey merry belated. I've been trawling the net. and I end up here. great tribute and music.

simply put


Anonymous said...

^^ sorry a.k.a soul on ice

Anonymous said...

hey man, excellent job with this JB tribute post. first rate. thanks for sharing.


Rubberband Man said...

Just a question. Isnt it kind of rude to criticize a persons eulogy? Just sayin.

Thanx for tha goods, mayne. i'm a fan reppin VA

Scholar said...

JT---You are too kind. Thanks for always dropping by to provide some encouraging words...you've been a huge inspiration.

Trent---Don't ever feel badly about dropping an opinion. I chuckled when I read your comment just now because you would not believe the struggle I went through with song selection. The version of "There Was A Time" that you speak about remains one of my absolute favorite JB tracks EVER. My only hesitation in posting it was that I did a few guest posts at Miblog Weighs A Ton this summer, and I featured that track then. I decided to post the other "There Was A Time" because I thought it would be something a little different to put out there. That said, I would agree that it doesn't quite measure up to the version you prefer. Thanks for the compliments and no harm done with the little mix-up.

Ritmo---does that mean you're Obi? If you're starting something new let me know so I can send some linkage your way.

Matt---Gratitude for the props, and thanks for all the great stuff you post @ los amigos. Still one of my favorite spots, and I'm grateful for all the wonderful music you've introduced me to as well. Peace brother...

Rubberband---Thanks for dropping a comment, but you ain't gotta worry your head about anything. Trent is good people, and he expressed his opinion with much respect. You don't do this sort of thing expecting to only receive praise---it's only natural that people are going to have their own perspective on things. Nice to know ya got my back, though ;)

travis said...

Excellent write up my man!

soulpeeps said...

So wait a minute, let me get this straight...You mean to tell me that Chubb Rock sampled the jazz version of There Was A Time for his song Treat 'Em Right? Wow, I learn sumthin' new every dang day!! Thank you, scholar.

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