The music blogs were supposed to be relatively quiet this week, catching up on the last of the Christmas music explosion, or completely ignoring it and doing their own thing. But then the unthinkable happened - the Godfather of Soul passed away on Christmas. I heard the news not long after basking in the glow of JB's own Christmas album and couldn't help but feel a little shiver of loss head up my spine. Of course, a lot of rock and soul music legends have passed away in the past few years, as we're hitting that time when old age is catching up to pop music. But James Brown was one of the most ever-present musical legends - they didn't call him the Hardest Working Man in Show Business for nothing - and he was still performing constantly, even booked to take over New Years Eve this year in New York City.
Update: New Yorkers had one last chance to say goodbye to JB, as he lay in state at the Apollo before his funeral. Gothamist has details on the honorary parade and viewing along with photos of Brown in the open coffin. Even in death he looks pretty darn funky.
It's not every day that a musical genius takes his bow, so this week let's just look at Mr. Please Please himself, James Brown.
But first, here's am mp3 from yours truly. This song, appropriately titled "James Brown", is a tribute to the Godfather of Soul by a 1970 elementary school choral ensemble directed by Nancy Dupree and released on the incredible album Ghetto Reality. It's a nice starting point - a bit of a mini-bio of the man himself.
James Brown, Nancy Dupree (mp3)
Video links after the jump:
Perhaps the best soul music blog, Soul Sides, provides a nice eulogy, including a clip of an audio interview he conducted with Brown just a few months ago. Earlier this year, the blog also celebrated one of JB's most exciting and innovative albums, Soul On Top, including two great tracks from the album.
Another great soul blog, Funky 16 Corners, reprints his excellent essay on the career and influence of Soul Brother Number One. Meanwhile, the Stepfather of Soul shares the story of his first James Brown 45, and just last Election Day was inspired to post this rather appropriate song from Brown's under-appreciated album Hell.
JB was a musician that transcended musical genres. Crud Crud tells how the Godfather of Soul reached inside and touched his punk rock spirit in a rather moving personal reflection. Jazz blog Straight No Chaser talks a bit about Brown's influence (musically and socially) and shares some jazz covers of his songs - as well as a track from Maceo (Parker) & All the King's Men album Doin' Their Own Thing, which signaled an unfriendly split between James and his band in the late 60s. Meanwhile, Fluxblog looks at JB's version of a pop standard.
Since JB died on that most holiday of days, it's only appropriate
that we pay tribute to his passing with some Christmas tunes. Brown's
holiday songs will never die, not only because he gave funky spins to
old classics, but because his originals are amongst the best Christmas
songs ever written. Check out the Christmas songs at The B Side, A Christmas Yuleblog, and My Old Kentucky Blog.
Or, if you just miss the man and want to load up on a ton of JB's best, head to Bag of Songs for a whole bunch of classic mp3s.
Now that the mp3s are out of the way, why not check out the man in action thanks to these video clips.
- A sweaty and powerful live version of "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" and "Georgia On My Mind", both from the late 70s.
- Performing "Please Please Please" on Shindig.
- "Mother Popcorn" TV performance with some very impressive leg and pelvic moves.
- A scene from his legendary 1971 Paris concert - the JB' s are smoking, and Bootsy Collins is along as well.
- An energetic "Sex Machine/Get On the Bood Foot" live on European (French?) TV, 1976.
- "Out Of Sight" from 1967 - a really tight live show filled with great shimmy and shake.
- Cute: a 1993 funky Japanese noodle ad.
- Funky: pick up a JB Future Shock T-Shirt.
- The famous peace-keeping Boston concert the day after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Clip from a 1978 documentary in which Mr. Dynamite himself teaches us how to do his dance moves.
- Grilling Alfred Hichcock for details on Psycho.
- The legendary Low Rider DJ Steve Crosno gets perhaps the highest compliment on earth.
- JB's cameo in the super-white film Ski Party. James is still cool, but the combo of the sweater and the pathetic music equals NOT funky.
- "Papa Don't Take No Mess" and "My Thang" on Soul Train. His exit into the audience is a great moment. Also on Soul Train, JB is joined by dancer Damita Jo Freeman, breaking out some superbad moves.
- His spiritual follower: Little Gary Ferguson, the 6 year old James Brown. (From The Beat, 1966)
- JB meets Sammy D. and gives him a little lesson on getting funky. Their charisma together is inspiring.
- Not only the consumate performer, JB was a whiz at finding and championing new talent. Here is my favorite of his many female protoges, Marva Whitney, doing "Things Got to Get Better".
- James' last performance in NYC was during Fashion Week in September. Here's the only clip I can find of that, where he is showing the love for his back-up singer Amy Christian.
- This YouTube user sells hard to find JB concert DVDs (including the 1971 Paris concert above) and has posted some YouTube clips of what he has to offer. Soul Sides recommends this clip of "Your Cheating Heart", and I say don't miss the intro to his TV performance of "Too Funky In Here".
- The saddest JB related clip I have ever seen - fat Axl Rose attempts to sing "I Feel Good". Why did this need to happen?
And if that isn't enough for you, turn on your TV tonight to "James Browns Last Chance", a VH1 "celebreality" (ugh) show that follows James Brown on a years worth of tours. They are billing this as JB attempting his "comeback tour", but he never really went anywhere. Still, it's a nice chance to get a warts and all look at the man himself, his much younger wife, and others in his circle. (Wed, Dec 27 @ 11:00am & 5pm (EST) and also Fri, Dec 29 @ 1pm)
Oh yeah, and there's this video, which I love, certainly, but I am also sick of watching people laugh at it. The man's a genius, people. Geniuses are allowed to be crazy.