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