December 29, 2006: I was in the UK when my sister told me that James Brown, one of the true pioneers in our world of soul music and beyond in the world of contemporary music, period, had passed away at the age of 73. I greeted the news with disbelief: 'The Godfather Of Soul' had been a part of my own world since the '60s when I began my discovery of the rich pastures of rhythm and blues. To begin with, he was just another name among the hundreds of artists with whom I became familiar but I quickly realized that he was no mere hitmaker: James Brown was a leading-edge creator, a man whose raw'n'funky sound would weave its way through my life throughout the '70s and beyond. Funny, because as funky as he was - fusing jazz licks, hardcore singing and passion into dozens of hit records and albums - my favorite track was (and still is) the classic ballad "It's A Man's Man's Man's World." When I began working at the Contempo record store in London from 1970 to 1975, we had a regular group of customers - many from West Africa in particular - who would trek up the long and winding staircase to make a weekly purchase of every new James Brown record (and he released what seemed like almost one every couple of weeks in the period from 1972-73!)and any record on JB's People label by Lyn Collins, Maceo, The JBs and others. His fans were fervent, ardent and they loved everything 'The Godfather' did.
As a music journalist, I covered a number of JB shows for Britain's "Blues & Soul" - one in London in 1971 and others in the U.S. throughout the '70s. I wrote a somewhat controversial article in 1973 entitled "Brilliant Or Boring?" which for posterity's sake, I just might have to reproduce here. I attended a press conference for James in New York in 1979 but never actually spoke with him one-on-one until one day - somewhere in the early '90s - the phone rang... "Is this David Nathan of "Blues & Soul" magazine," asked a female caller. I answered in the affirmative and she replied, "I have Mr. Brown for you." Completely unheralded, out of the blue, James Brown was calling to tell me about his then-new album! I scrambled to get to my computer to begin taking notes with the 'Godfather' on the other end, speaking a mile a minute while I tried to keep up! It was an amazing experience, as this giant of a soul legend shared about what would be his next release...and literally before I could ask more than one question, he was gone!
That James Brown impacted several generations of music buyers is without any question; his role as an empowering musical force in the black community was immense and we'll never know how many lives were changed by people who were encouraged and inspired by anthems like "Say It Loud, I'm Black And I'm Proud." Along with folks like Nina Simone and Curtis Mayfield, he was a fearless proponent of civil rights, justice, freedom and equality for all. No matter his personal quirks, James Brown contributed mightily to my world and to the world of millions everywhere. He was truly one-of-a-kind and his music speaks volumes of his enormous influence on popular culture. He was a hero for many, a global icon with few peers. Forever, he remains the quintessential man of funk, an originator and a legend. James Brown, right on, right on!
December 29, 2006
SOUL DEITY: JB LIVES ON "It's not surprising to me that so many folks have lined Harlem streets to mourn the death of James Brown. Though the media seems to be predictably glossing over the specifics of his historic contributions, JB was no less important than The Beatles or Bob Dylan in shaping the direction of popular music after World War II. Akin to musical deity, JB's dazzling showmanship and ultra-sophisticated musicianship elevated soul and created the template for funk, which in turn became the backbone for hip-hop. Without JB, there'd be no Michael Jackson, no Fela Kuti, no Public Enemy, no D'Angelo, no Justin Timberlake, no Usher, no Timbaland and no Dr. Dre....the list goes on, and even to state it as such is understating his influence. Though he hadn't released any significant new music in many years, his output alone in the 60s and the 70s - and its impact on music, dance, film, visual art and beyond - was legendary." - Jason King
"I had the pleasure as a young artist working with James Brown two times in my career. I opened for Mr. Brown after his release "Living In America" at Radio City Music Hall; and again live with my band at the Apollo in New York City. All I can basically say is to those who don't know about James Brown, take a look at how he gave back to the community, without any complaints. And stop look and listen to the effect he still has on so many. I want to say Mr. Brown, thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life. You are truly missed. Respects to James Brown's family. May God bless you and keep you safe! Just understand no one can replace the man who started it all for so many who forget! He is still "the Godfather Of Soul". Our condolences," - Evelyn "Champagne" King, husband Freddie Fox & The King family
"JAMES BROWN, The Godfather Of Soul, full of fury, funk and soul A TRUE LEGEND, nobody in the industry was like him, a unique singer, writer, producer and dancer. Greatly copied through the years , his music still sounds fresh ,just the opening bars of "Sex Machine" and you're up on your feet. The world has lost a true legend but his spirit and the music he made will LIVE ON FOREVER." - Leee John (former lead singer of Imagination)
"The funk and soul of the music of James Brown marked the sound track of my junior years, and I look fondly on those memories of my grammar and middle school days because of it. He was synonymous with dance music, but the one song that resonates most with me is the classic “It’s A Man’s World.” I rank that as one of the most beautiful ballads of all time. Mr. Brown is an original, meaning there’s only one. Compare genuine to substitute – it can’t be done. There’s an essence he gives that no one else can give to the world, to my life because he was truly one of a kind.
As a young songwriter at Philly International Records I spent so much of my time secretly stargazing because we were constantly in the presence of some of the greatest names in the music industry. I say “secretly” because one of the tacit rules of professionalism is to never approach an artist like the crazed fan you really are. Back then, especially, it was very malapropos.
One particular afternoon I remember passing one of the administrative offices I usually pass en route to our office, and I just happened to casually glance to my left. What I saw nearly stopped me in my tracks. In disbelief, I did an instant double take. Seated on the sofa was James Brown – live and in living color. He was so near that I could almost reach out and touch him. You don’t know how hard it was for me to contain myself. To this day, if ever there was a time I wish I had abandoned the protocol – just for a moment, it was then. That is probably one of my greatest industry regrets.
I realize that my references to Mr. Brown in the present tense may be breaking the rules of standard English. However, in all honesty, it is extremely difficult for me to think of him in the past tense. There is so much about James Brown that remains very much alive. The irrefutable Godfather of Soul leaves behind a strong and indelible global legacy as the musical voice of the past, present, and better still, the future. Respectfully submitted," - Cynthia Biggs
"Soul music fans, pop music fans, blues fans and jazz fans world wide were deeply touched by the passing of the Godfather. I remember oh so well my teenage days standing in lines two and three blocks long to see his shows when he came to the Howard Theater in Washington, D.C.
As hard as I try, I can't pick my favorite James Brown song. Is it "Try Me" with its killer Doo Wop ending? Or is it "Prisoner Of Love", where he took a pop standard and actually made it a blues tune! I can't even pick my favorite James Brown period. Is it the early-soul '60s with "Bewildered" and "Out Of Sight"; or the late '60s soul of "Cold Sweat" and "I Got The Feelin'"; or maybe the '70s funk period of "Get Up Offa That Thing".
As the mid-day host of XM Satellite Radio's SOUL STREET, a radio station that I dare say plays more James Brown than any station in the world, I can tell you he is by far and away the most requested artist.
The day after he passed, we did a 4 hour special on Mr. Brown featuring his music, interviews and on-air phone calls with people who knew and worked with him (Danny Ray, the MC and "cape man"; Robert "Mousie" Thompson, the drummer in his band for the last 14 years). This Wednesday, Bobby Bennett and I will do another special at 5 p.m. EST. No tribute is too much for someone who did so much." - Nick "Dr. Nick" Johnson, Host of the "Dr. Nick" Show, Monday - Friday, 12 noon - 3pm, XM Satellite Radio's SOUL STREET
"Greetings all. This is so sad. But now the "Hardest Working Man in Show Business" can finally get his rest. It just too bad he won't be coming back. Thought I never met him in person, I loved him with a passion. Out of all the music I have and all the artists I've experienced James Brown was, is and will always be my favorite. Baddest that ever did it and got away with it.
I remember seeing him in Jersey City at Roosevelt Stadium, one of the greatest LIVE shows I ever saw. This was in the late 60's when songs like "I'n Black And I'm Proud" were charting. I read his biography, Late 80's early 90's and really enjoyed finding out about his early life. James was a multi-talented musician and fighter for human rights. He dearly loved his people and the rest of humanity and this was reflected in much of his music as well as his work on the streets. This is so strange because, in the last two weeks I bought two CDs of his music (Soul Legends # 9 and the album he made with Louis Bellson's and Oliver Nelson's big band "Soul On Top"), still trying to track down certain songs he performed or produced. He will be sorely missed. There aren't enough word to describe him as a person and his impact on AMERICAN MUSIC period.
Long Live KING JAMES the 1st - REST IN PEACE. Peace and Blessings," - D. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
"So many people saying good things about Mr. Brown makes you go somewhere to realize just how many people he touched. A couple of years ago Mark Lamaar had just interviewed Mr. Brown for TV and so was on a "JB awareness high", he noted that hardly a day goes by without some kind of reference to him, either in songs, sayings, ads etc...it's true - I tried it. "The same is true for the Beatles and Presley - that's how important he is.
I first became aware of James Brown in 1965 when I heard "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" on Alan Freeman's chart rundown, it sounded like nothing else. His Northern tracks: "There Was A Time," "Money Won't Change You" and "Hey America" were the limits for many of my friends - but not for me. I loved the flip of "Time (I Can't Stand Myself)" especially when the walking bass comes in). Favourites, well I don't know where to go but "Escape-ism" is pretty close to the top. You've been a part of my life for the last 40 years and through your music will remain with me till I also have to go, Thank you, Mr. Brown." - email@example.com
"When I was Mary Wells fan club president, I was able to catch James Brown perform at the Pantages and both Motown legends Mary Wells and Martha Reeves were on the show with James Brown. I passed JB's dressing room and there he was; sitting under the hair dryer getting ready to fix his famous Pompadour !! The whole show was dynamite ... I am so glad that Ludie Montgomery finally set the record straight [ in her book My Sister Tommy] about James Brown and his love relationship with Tammi Terrell or Tammy Montgomery as she was known then. James Brown, and my special lady Ruth Brown both in heaven as well as Miss Jennell Hawkins. They will truly be missed !! MOMENTS TO REMEMBER" - Spookey Esparza, www.chicano-magazine.com
"James Brown's spirit continues. His artistry stimulated me as a youth growing in Baltimore, Maryland in the 70s. I was a newly arrived Jamakan (sic) by way of England. Seeing the red (and black & white) 45s from Polydor of the latest Brown release assured nourishment for the soul in an era of vitally Funky sounds.
King James, along with Curtis Mayfield, the Undisputed Truth, Gamble and Huff, Stevie Wonder, Bob and the Wailers, Aretha, the Staple Singers, and many others grew me up in the Word of the Lord via Soul Music. His seeds of love and righteousness have sprouted and will continue to bring forth fruit. HEAR YE, HEAR YE; hark the sounds of ALL this man's music: He is JAMES BROWN!!!" - Tftka Dawidalle
"Funny, David, that you should label "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World" as your favorite James Brown song. I'm more a devotee of smooth soul than the funkier stuff, but that song is not only smooth, it's a blockbuster. It's the kind that if I'm listening to it on the radio in the car, I can't get out of the car until the last note." - firstname.lastname@example.org
"Well it had to happen sometime as we all progress along this path of soulful life and what a showman - had to leave us at Christmas, a showman to the very end!
I will always remember these songs, personal choices, not saying they are the best but my fondest youthful memories of the man who could "camel walk" with the best of them -Night Train, Papa's Got A Brand New Bag, There Was A Time, King Heroin. God Bless ya - hold onto that cape one last time, another legend has gone." - Ash Saywell, Sheffield, England
"As a DJ through the mid 70's playing mainly funk I would not have been able to maintain a packed dance floor without music of the Godfather. As you rightly say, David, it was as if he had a new release every couple of weeks. It wasn't until I gave up dj'ing that I had the time to look backwards over his career and discover his early material. Of all the things that stick in my mind the most was David Bowie blatantly copying his style with "Fame" and JB replying with the same riff in his track "Hot (I need to be loved)" as if to say, "sue me if you dare".
I was fortunate enough to see him in concert more recently at the Liverpool Summer Pops and was amazed at his ability to still deliver the goods in his 70's. A truly talented man who will be sorely missed." - Kevin Horsewood
"Although he didn't have the intense soul of the great Otis Redding, James Brown to me was probably the greatest soul showman. His very funky style, fancy footwork and great backup band made for a memorable show whenever you saw him perform. Rest in peace, James." - Virgilotis@aol.com
"Many things has already been said about James Brown. I would like to add my thoughts as he was without a doubt the Father and influence of many styles of music that includes Funk and Hip-Hop. He was also one of the founding fathers of soul along with Ray Charles and Sam Cooke. He was a man that did a lot for our people. One example is when he perform a concert in Boston the day after Dr. Martin Luther King was killed. He wanted to unite us after the assassination of our leader and help calm the chaos for the riots.
With his passing, it is considered a end of a era, as he was one of the last people from the beginning of Soul Music( 1950's ) left alive. The man may be gone, but his legacy and music will never disappear. He continues to live on." - Randy Sherman
"I got the chance to catch Mr Brown live one last time (I had seen him twice before) this summer in Italy. He gave a wonderful show, playing the classics and a few less usual songs (The Popcorn, Soulpower...), interacting with the audience (he invited an audience member on stage : the guy had his saxophone with him in the crowd, and he got to play a brief solo !) and obviously enjoying the adulation. The last image I'll have will be, after the show, seeing from a distance hugging Solomon Burke who had opened for him..." - Frederic Adrian, Paris
"Christmas for me this year was not a time of rejoicing, due to personal troubles. However, to learn that James had passed away made me realise how trivial my problems actually were! I forgot my problems as the sad news sank in. We soul fans are now losing our stars at a devastating rate. Yes we do each have our own personal favourites depending on which part of the soul music genre drives us. This is where JB was different. He crossed all those boundaries, even Pop and Rock fans recognised his style, delivery, enthusiasm and general joy de vivre.
I saw his act only once, fortunate that I was, at Wembley in 1986. No masses of flashing lights, pyrotechnics or elevating stages. Just a man, with his band. That man WAS the pyrotechnics, exploding across the stage, sliding along on one foot. 50 odd years old and driving 13,000 butts offa that thang! Then when he slowed for It's A Man's World he told it how it is. This world ain't nothing without a woman. Oh James, you made a mistake because in writing this I feel that this world Ain't Nothing Without You.
He had faults like all of us but this man was On The One! God bless you James, bet those Angels have had to re-soul their shoes already." - Andy
"What a sad day for music. This has been the blackest Christmas ever. So many stars have passed on this year - Lynden David Hall, Lou Rawls, Gerald Levert, Milan Williams, David Townsend - and now the greatest of them all.. I will never forget the first time I became aware of James Brown - I was about nine years old and I used to hear 'The Big Payback' and 'Papa's Got A Brand New Bag' ... By the time I got to hear 'Please, Please, Please' and 'I Feel Good' , I was a fan for life." - email@example.com
"Most people don't know it but just say for instance that James Brown had not been born. The very music you hear today, yesterday, or tomorrow would not be the same. Without James Brown there would be no funk, soul would sound different and dance music would not exist. He will be missed by many including me." - Daniel, Fresno, CA
"I told my mom to come into the NYC from Long Island to meet me and we got on the east line at 2:45pm. I told her that we would stay as long as she felt she could hold out. We finally got in at 8:40pm. She (and I) are HUGE JB fans and it was sentimental for us because when I was a kid, we used to wait on those lines at the Apollo, the Albee and the Brooklyn Fox to see him, and it was ALWAYS worth the wait. So...although I HATE to wait, for Mr. Brown, it was a privilege. I've always said if Muhammad Ali and Brown didn't exist, you couldn't make them up..they are just bigger than life. James wasn't perfect but he took stands, celebrated life, inspired his people and left the world a better place than the way he found it.
It was truly a major risk for a crossed-over artist like him to release such a powerful statement like "Say it Loud." He always wore his blackness up-front and with that song, single-handedly killed the word 'negro.' How proud we were to see one of our own doing it on his own terms.
Several things struck me while on the line: - The diversity of the fans. - The amount of elderly fans waiting on the lines and refusing to leave. The police finally canvassed the lines and escorted them into the theatre after many of us implored them. - The sheer number of people this single man had touched and the outpouring of love and respect. I was not the only one who said...."if it wasn't James Brown, I'd have left this line long ago." The lines were each at least 5 blocks long and 9 persons wide and at about 6:30 pm, the police cut the lines as those fans would certainly not have been able to get in although the viewing period was extended an extra hour and a half.
I'm happy that God allowed him to crossover in such a peaceful way...he deserved it. He did his job and he did it well. In a show featuring James Brown, Elvis Presley and Jackie Wilson, based on talent alone with politics and marketing thrown out the window.....Elvis is the opening act and Mr. Brown is closing the show......! Be well, Happy New Year," - Chuck Whaley
"I'm 56, went to more then six James Brown concerts, have every CD, DVD of live shows, have been wearing his t- shirts. This man is a legend no one like him. His song "King Heroin" is a must to hear, "Say It Loud I'm Black & I'm Proud," "Cold Sweat," a must to listen to. May James Brown rest in peace, a legend for me he will be missed, this weekend New Year's Eve, the legend's music will be playing in style. THANK YOU JAMES BROWN FOR YOUR MUSIC." - firstname.lastname@example.org
"Mr. James Brown, in my words was the Mr Show Business. He definitely give you your money's worth. I will miss him a lot. He was a great SOUL BROTHER #1." - email@example.com
"Thank you God for sending us James Brown. The BLACK music legends are leaving us. Who will pick up the torch?" - Alvin Sorap
Another legend has passed our way He left us all on Christmas Day It was shocking to all to hear the news And many of us felt a greatness we would lose
He was a legend indeed in song and dance And was never afraid to take a chance He had lots of hard times in his earlier years But his music was always a pleasure to hear
James Brown will be one we all will miss From his please please please to his legendary split I will play your music for many days to come And always remember the battles you've won
REST IN PEACE GOD FATHER OF SOUL Annette Kenner, Washington, DC
"DON'T CRY FOR ME" - A TRIBUTE TO THE KING OF SOUL JAMES BROWN
DON'T CRY FOR ME
HOLD BACK THE TEARS
IT COMES NATURALLY
AFTER SO MANY YEARS
ALL MY DOUBTS WERE SETTLED
BY MERCY I WAS SPIRITUALLY LED
THIS SOLDIER HAS EARNED HIS MEDAL
MY SOUL MADE UP MY DYING BED
NOW I'M ONE WITH THEE
DON'T CRY FOR ME
I SANG MY SONG
I WROTE MY WORD
I DONE SOME WRONG
I KNOW YOU HEARD
I LIVED AND I LET
I RAN THE YARDS
I PAID MY DEBT
FOR MY REWARD
NOW I AM FREE
DON'T CRY FOR ME
WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT
DON'T LET A TEAR GREET YOUR FACE
IT MAY DISTURB MY FLIGHT
I MIGHT LOSE MY PLACE
THERE ARE NO MORE WORRIES
YES, I DID CRY INSIDE
NO MORE FALSE STORIES
NOW PEACE ABIDES
HONOR MY PLEA
DON'T CRY FOR ME
TRY TO RECALL
THE SMILES AND LAUGHTER
DON'T LET A TEAR FALL
THERE IS A MORNING AFTER
GOD KNOWS BEST
JUST FINISH YOUR CHORE
LET ME TAKE MY REST
I'LL MEET YOU ON THE OTHER SHORE
BID ME FAREWELL, IM ALRIGHT
WITH THAT MY FRIENDS GOODBYE AND GOODNIGHT
Jude Paul St. Martin, Jr
About the Writer
David Nathan is the founder and CEO of SoulMusic.com and began his writing career in 1965; beginning in 1967, he was a regular contributor to Blues & Soul magazine in London before relocating to the U.S. in 1975 where he served as U.S. editor for the publication for several decades and began being known as 'The British Ambassador Of Soul.' From 1988 to 2004, he wrote prolifically for Billboard, has penned bios, produced and written liner notes for box sets and reissue CDs for over a thousand projects. He returned to London in 2009 where he has helped create SoulMusic.com Records as a leading reissue label.