Thursday, December 28, 2006

Remembering James Brown

James Brown

In Articles and In Pictures

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James Joseph Brown, Jr


Great Bio from PBS

Information from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

NPR Interviews Bootsy Collins

NPR Interviews Maceo Parker

James Brown- Boston 1968

By Douglas Belkin, Boston Globe Staff December 26, 2006

James Brown will be mourned by millions around the world this week as one of the great musical innovators of the 20th century. But in Boston, he will be remembered by many as the man who helped prevent the city from burning down the night after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

On April 4, 1968, the day before Brown was scheduled to play a concert at the Boston Garden, King was shot to death in Memphis. In Detroit, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, rioters set fire to white-owned businesses.

In Boston, Mayor Kevin White, then just 38 years old and four months into his first term, gathered his aides at City Hall and prepared for the worst.
"It was incredibly tense," said John Henning, the longtime television broadcaster who, in 1968, was in the fifth year of his career.

According to a Boston Globe account that weekend: "By noon Friday it appeared that Boston's black community of 80,000 was poised for a violent upheaval. Roving bands in Roxbury, North Dorchester , and the South End inflicted injuries on a dozen persons, set fire to one store , and looted seven others."

Fearful of more violence, the managers at the Garden decided to cancel Brown's concert, and White was faced with a dilemma, according to an account in the book " Common Ground, " by J. Anthony Lukas . If Brown didn't go on, there wouldn't be enough time to get the word out and thousands of angry black teenage fans would be left at the Garden with nothing to do.
Only this time, "it'll be in the heart of downtown," Lukas quoted Councilor Tom Atkins as saying.
In a telephone interview yesterday, US Representative Barney Frank, who was White's aide in the 1960s, said city officials believed Boston could potentially have a citywide riot among blacks and whites.

"You get a bunch of 17-year-olds together you never know what's going to happen," said Frank, a Democrat from Newton.

White made a decision. He would reinstate the concert, but would try to suppress attendance, get a television station to carry it live, and then appeal to youths to stay home and watch it.

But there was a catch. That Friday, Brown taped a television show in New York and was under contract not to appear on TV before it aired. If the concert at the Garden were broadcast live, it would cost him a bundle.

According to Lukas, who reconstructed events from interviews with the participants: Atkins met Brown at the airport, and explained the situation as the pair rode toward downtown in a limousine. "No way," Brown shouted. "They'll sue me in New York."
"James, James," pleaded Atkins. "We'll work this out! But right now you have an opportunity to help save this city."

Finally Brown relented -- at a cost. He demanded $60,000 to cover his expenses. White, now out of options, agreed, Lukas wrote.
Only 2,000 people showed up for the concert -- the Garden held 14,000. When White got on stage, the crowd was subdued.

White, according to a Globe report on the concert, urged the audience at home and in the Garden "to make Rev. Dr. King's dream a reality in Boston. . . . No matter what any other community might do -- we in Boston will honor Dr. King in peace."
"Brown sang and danced, and as usual thrilled his audience. But he also talked to them and for this is being credited with helping to avert potential disaster," according to the Globe.

The concert aired live on Channel 2 and was then immediately rebroadcast, Frank recalled yesterday. Across Boston, people stayed home and watched.
"I remember going through the South End and every window seemed to be watching James Brown," said Peter Wolf , the lead singer of the J. Geils Band.
Brown brought calm to a simmering city.

"It really prevented the city from blowing up," said Henning.
Said Frank: "You never know what might have happened if they all came down."
Globe correspondent Steve Morse contributed to this story.


James Brown's Political Reach

Here is a great blog entry on James Browns political clout. He was more than just a performer, especially for his people. See Here.


Amy Goodman's Democracy Now Program covers James Brown. Watch/Listen Here.


Innovative James Brown was the Most Influential Musician in History
by George E. Curry
NNPA Editor-in-Chief
Originally posted 1/2/2007

AUGUSTA, GA. (NNPA) --When he died early Christmas Day, James Brown, left behind the legacy of having been the most influential musician in history, credited with single-handedly inspiring what was known as soul music, disco, funk and rap over a career that spanned 50 years and produced 800 songs, an average of more than 16 records a year.

Brown died early Christmas at Emory Crawford Long Hospital in Atlanta of heart failure brought on by complications from pneumonia. He was 73 years old.

''He was an innovator, he was an emancipator, he was an originator,'' said Little Richard.

''Rap music, all that stuff, came from James Brown.''

Brown was buried Saturday on his estate in Beech Island, S.C., just across the state line near Augusta, Ga., following three days of farewells.

The most elaborate was Brown’s final appearance Thursday at New York City’s famed Apollo Theater, where thousands that had marveled at his showmanship in life came to bid him good-bye. Posters of James Brown shows at the Apollo flanked his gold casket and music from his 1962 “ Live at the Apollo” album filled the background. Mourners passed a 6 by 6 floral arrangement that spelled “Godfather” in red carnations.

Brown arrived at the Apollo in a white, painted hearse pulled by two white horses. His golden casket was lined with white velvet. He was decked out in a cobalt, sequined satin suit, white gloves and pointed silvery shoes.

Standing a few steps away, near the orchestra pit, was Al Sharpton, once part of Brown’s road crew before rising to prominence in the civil rights movement.

A private service presided over by Sharpton was held Friday at the Carpentersville Baptist Church in North Augusta, S.C. That service, closed to the public, was attended by relatives and dignitaries, including comedian/social activist Dick Gregory and boxing promoter Don King.

On Saturday, fans in Augusta, Ga., his childhood home, were able to pay their respects at the James Brown Arena.

Celebrities included Jesse L. Jackson Sr. and mega-star Michael Jackson. A tearful Michael Jackson bowed before Brown’s casket in Augusta and then hugged Sharpton.

“James Brown is my greatest inspiration,” the singer told mourners.

“When I saw him move, I was mesmerized. I knew that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life because of James Brown.”

Aides and relatives say they expect to turn Brown’s home to a museum, similar to Graceland, Elvis Presley’s former estate in Memphis.

In the meantime, members of James Brown band say they will resume touring, probably in February. Spike Lee has signed a contract to do a movie on the singer’s life, expected to be completed by 2008.

While most stars would be happy to be associated with one honorific, James Brown had five, more than any other entertainer in history: ''The Hardest Working Man in Show Business,'' ''Soul Brother Number 1,'' ''Mr. Dynamite,'' ''The Godfather of Soul'' and even ''The Original Disco Man.''

Brown was a spellbinding performer, sometimes playing as many as 350 shows a year. And what a show. In the early years, he leaped from a piano and landed on stage in a split. He was an energetic dancer, doing the camel walk, the mash potato and sometimes would ''back up and do the James Brown.''

In a booklet that accompanied the CD collection, ''James Brown - Star Time,'' long-time friend and performer Bobby Byrd said: ''The dancing y'all seen later on ain't nothing to what he used to do back then. James could stand flat-footed and flip over into a split. He'd tumble, too, over and over like in gymnastics. We'd say, 'What's wrong with you? When it's time to record, you'll be done killed yourself.''

Born outside of rural Barnwell, S.C. on May 3, 1933, Brown was abandoned by his mother at the age of 4 and reared by a great-aunt in an Augusta, Ga. whorehouse. As a teenager, Brown was convicted of stealing and served three years at the Georgia Juvenile Training Institute in Toccoa. There, he met Bobby Byrd, lead singer of a local gospel group. Some accounts say that Brown met Byrd when the latter's group sang at the juvenile correctional facility. But Byrd says they met when Brown's baseball team played against local residents. When Brown was released from reform school, Byrd's family took him in and Brown joined Byrd's group, the Gospel Starlighters.

But gospel would soon give way to rhythm and blues.

Byrd said, ''When we saw all the girls screaming for groups like Hank Ballard & The Midnighters, we thought, 'Oh, so this is what we want to do!'''

And they did. James Brown became the lead singer in a group that called themselves the Flames and, later, the Famous Flames. Little Richard would joke, ''Y'all are the onliest people who ever made yourself famous before you were famous.''

But fame was just around the corner.

In 1956, ''Please, Please, Please,'' was released by Syd Nathan's Federal label, rising to #6 on the R&B charts.

Other hits followed: ''Try Me'' (1958), ''Night Train'' (1962), ''Prisoner of Love'' (1963), ''Papa's Got a Brand New Bag'' (1965), ''I Got You - I Feel Good'' (1965), ''It's a Man's World'' (1966), ''Cold Sweat'' (1967), ''I Got that Feeling'' (1968), ''Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud'' (1968), ''The Popcorn'' (1969), ''Ain't It Funky Now'' -Part 1 (1970), ''Hot Pants'' (1971), ''Get On the Good Foot'' (1972) and ''The Payback'' (1974), the only gold-certified album [500,000 copies sold] of his long and successful career.

At points when his career appeared to be waning, a movie appearance would introduce James Brown to another generation of fans. In 1980, it was his role as a dancing preacher in John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd's ''Blues Brothers'' and in 1986, it was performing ''Living in America'' in ''Rocky IV.''

Though his ''Say it Loud -- I'm Black and I'm Proud'' became a Black National Anthem'' in 1968, later that year, he released a lesser known, patriotic, ''America is My Home,'' causing some fans to boo him. He also supported a couple of conservative presidents, campaigning for Richard M. Nixon at a time when he was an unregistered voter, according to his autobiography, and served on one of Ronald Reagan's domestic abuse panels during a time he was being repeatedly arrested for spousal abuse. A series of problems with the Internal Revenue Service led to his losing Black radio stations in Knoxville, Tenn. and Baltimore, Md.

His low point came in 1988 when a high-speed chase with police in South Carolina and neighboring Georgia resulted in his serving a two-year prison sentence. But as has been the case throughout his life, Brown bounced back, receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1992 Grammy Awards and being honored the following year by the prestigious Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. LL Cool J told the Kennedy Center audience, ''In music there are three B's. There's Bach - I love Bach, there's Beethoven - I love Beethoven. And there's Brown. Doesn't that name make you feel good.''

Other rappers --including Chuck D, Ice-T and the Fat Boys -- also kept James Brown's music alive by liberally sampling his hits. Brown joked that ''the music out there is only as good as my last record.''

He told the Associated Press in 2003, ''Disco is James Brown, hip-hop is James Brown, rap is James Brown; you know what I'm saying? You hear all the rappers, 90 percent of their music is me.''

James Brown revolutionalized more than rap music. What became known as the James Brown beat was a unique sound when he introduced it.

''What James Brown was to music in terms of soul and hip-hop, rap, all of that, is what Bach was to classical music,'' said Al Sharpton, who was once part of Brown's traveling entourage.

''This is the guy who literally changed the music industry. He put everybody on a different beat, a different style of music. He pioneered it.''


Commentary from the Huffington Post


1968 Olympics: Tommie Smith and John Carlos
1968 Olympics: Tommie Smith and John Carlos

Brown in Vietnam Meeting with the Troops- Late 60's
Brown in Vietnam Meeting with the Troops- Late 60's

Let's Dedicate 2007 To The Spirit of James Brown

By Anthony Asadullah Samad

*It is very rare that one person defines a generation, a movement and a culture, all at the same time-more than once-over the period of their lifetime. Cultural icons are far and few in between.

When James Brown died on Christmas Day of 2006, a little bit of all us died with him. The spirit in him was the spirit in us, Black America. We only became "Black" America because James Brown said so. Before then we were Negro America, or Colored America. And we became "black" kicking and screaming.

When Kwame Toure (Stokely Carmichael) started shouting "Black Power" during Freedom Summer (1964) in the civil rights protest marches down South, Dr. King and others made their thoughts known on how "uncomfortable" the term made him (and Whites in the struggle) feel. Therein, our struggle for identity became as conflicted as goals for equality. James Brown cleared all that up in 1968 (at least the identity part).

1968 was the most defining year in the history of America, and it was the year, "Black America" declared its identity and James Brown wrote our national anthem, "Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud." It was the boldest proclamation in an era of proclamations that included Malcolm's "Freedom, Justice and Equality, By Any Means Necessary," Martin Luther King's "We, As A People Will Get To The Promise Land," and who could forget the boldest of the bold, Muhammad Ali, proclamation of "I Am The Greatest." But it was the spirit of James Brown, then "the King of Soul," that was the spirit of Black America. It was a time when Black America came out of its 350 year fog, and for a brief moment in time, we knew who we were. It's time for Black America to find itself again. What better time than in 2007. Let's dedicate 2007 to the spirit of James Brown, a man who despite his foibles, worked damn near every day of his life, overcame massive odds (and constant personal
challenges) to free himself and free the mind of his people-not just for a time but for eternity.

See, while Black America has gone backwards on many fronts over the past forty years, but we never quite went back to being Negroes (at least not officially). Lord knows some of us tried to take us back-and some might suggest that this latest iteration of the new "New Negro" (lost identity, lost ambition, lost cultural principals and lost sense of indebtedness to previous generations) combined with the maniacal behaviors of the new "Nigga" (gangstas, bangas, slangas) has Black America in such a jacked up state, that we need another movement just to get us all back on the same page.

Quiet as kept, as much as we now tend to romanticize the period, we all weren't on the same page in the 1960s. Everybody didn't march with King.

Most people didn't embrace Malcolm (until 25 years after his death, when the movie, "X" came out in 1991). Everybody didn't embrace the radicalism of the Panthers, the Pan-Africanism of the All Afrikan People's Revolutionary Party, the African centered culturalism of US, nor the intellectualism of integrationism (the other civil rights groups promotion of peaceful co-existence as a 'colorblind' society). No matter where you were in the socio-economic strata of the black diaspora, when James Brown said, "Say it loud." nobody insisted on maintaining their current identity. I don't recall anybody abstaining on the new identity by saying, "I'm Negro and I'm Proud."

Nobody was proud to be a Negro in America in 1960s-or any other time. Being a Negro in America had the negative connotation of being a second (or third class) citizen in a society that promoted egalitarian pluralism (society of
equals) but practiced inegalitarian Eurocentrism (a race caste system based on white supremacy). Now check this out; as negative as being a Negro was, being called "black" was even worse in the eyes of the American African.

Black folk would get in fights when somebody called them a "black muthaf***r, not because they were called a muthaf***r but because they called, black. Both terms came from the oppressor, but in our own cultural confusion, we rejected our blackness first. We were, indeed, a confused people. One song changed all that.

James Brown said it was not only okay to be black, but to be proud in that blackness, and if you are really proud of being black, then say it (and don't whisper it either). Say it loud. The knowledge of blackness may have come from Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X and carried forth by Stokely, Angela Davis and the host of young pro-black "radicals" that were considered on the "fringe" of the black intellectual mainstream, but it was James Brown that mainstreamed blackness by taking a new generation perception of themselves and making the whole races perception of themselves. When James Brown came out with an "Afro" and black bellbottoms, suddenly we saw our parents, who we thought we total "squares," wearing Afros and bellbottoms. My father, who forced us get a haircut once a month now let his own hair grow out. A cultural transformation was in full effect (I still remember my mom in her "hotpants"). That might have been the last time black folk was "nappy and happy." It didn't last long, but at least it happened. Thanks to JB.

Of course, James Brown brought back "perms" and long leather coats in the 1970s as blaxploitation took over blackness and the King of Soul became the Godfather of Soul, but James Brown's trendiness didn't takeover his consciousness nor his impact on future "messengers" through the music of future generations. When Black America had been decimated by the Reagan Revolution of the 1980s, with poverty, black unemployment and violence at a 30 year high, when the question was being asked by Public Enemy, "Who Stole The Soul" out of the black community, it was James Brown who spoke up, saying, "Here we are in the '80s, practically the 90s, talking about the same thing we were talking about in the 30s." Brown wondered what happened to the spirit of the black community, but he led us into the 1990s, which served as a period of retroflection and cultural reconnection culminating with the Million Man March. James Brown never lost his spirit, his desire for black progress and was never too far removed from his people.

In 2007, let's remember what James Brown was-bigger than life, iconic in stature (Elvis, Lennon, and no other musical genius star shined as bright for 50 years), but also let us remember what James Brown stood for, a spirit that invigorated a culturally dead people and gave rise to a pride and identity that forever defined our blackness, in a positive way, that Blacks in America had never known. Let's live this year in embracement of cultural consciousness, and proclaim positive values, as James Brown, would say it, one last time; "Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud."


Inducted in both the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Songwriters Hall of Fame Entry

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Entry

Brown was also inducted in the British Music Hall of Fame


The Kennedy Center Honors

Click Here for Brown's Kennedy Center Page

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

James Brown, the king of funk. It's always sad when people like James Brown, John Lennon, and other music greats pass away.

I'm mostly just unhappy that most of the punks at my school still have no idea who James Brown is! Oh sure, they've heard I Feel Good (I Got You) (who hasn't?), yet they don't know who sings it! What is wrong with the young people of today?

Anyway. When that second comming of Jesus happens, I sure hope James Brown, John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix (and others) do second commings as well! Until then may they all rest in piece, for there will unfortunatly never be others like them.