Jaaaames Brown

The Godfather of Soul, the Prime Minister of Funk, the Man Who Unmasked Micheal Jackson's Moonwalk As Nothin' But The Camel Walk In Reverse is dead. Pneumonia got him after ten lifetimes of sweatin' it out for the good folks in the audience. James Brown changed my life from the moment I first witnessed The Famous Flames bringing him in frozen from the cold and unthawing him to do "I Feel Good (I Got You)" in a cameo in the movie Ski Party, a beach movie gone to the mountains. That year, at the Stripling Junior High School talent show my friends and I reprised the song in a primitve pre-karaoke pantomime, dialog and all down to the "Hey, I you who you are! You're James Brown! And Those Are the Famous Flames!" "That's right." "How bought doing a song for us, James?" "OK." I was in the role of James Brown. I tried to dance like him for the remainder of my dancing years, mastering the Camel Walk and the side slide shuffle while holding my pants up. My aunt in DC told me he was a hairdresser (just look at the conked pompadour he wore), and that he was married to his drummer. Then again, he appeared tight with his white bass player, Tim, who he called out for solos almost as many times as he requested Maceo to blow his horn.

I saw Mr. Brown more often than any single entertainer during my youth, including shows at Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth when I was the only white face in the first ten rows and James was spewing fire and raw sexuality while witnessing better than any holy roller evangelist to thump a Bible. I was at the Dallas Memorial Audotorium show in 1968 when he was carrying two drummers and perhaps the best live band in music at the moment, and unveiled his Black Power anthem "Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)" the first time I couldn't sing along with a JB song but a performance so intense it was issued as a live album thirty years later Say It Live and Loud - Live in Dallas 08.26.68 (Polydor) with some bitchin' liner notes by Chuck D. The CD may be even better than Live at The Apollo, which I've considered the best live performance by anyone ever captured on record, including Otis Redding Live In Paris ("Good to me, good to me, baby" the French girl in the crowld begged).

I paid him back by ripping off his cape act from live shows when his valet would come out at the end of the show to place a cape over the prostate and spent Brown, lead him off stage, only to throw it off and head back for the mic to sing some another verse of "Please, Please, Please."

I held the cape for several years for Joe "King" Carrasco, an artist I managed back in the 1980s. Some folks knew who I was stealing from. Others thought Joe "King" was Mr. Dynamite his own self.

I got to interview Mr. Brown in 84 while his then-wife Adrian was doing his hair before a private performance for friends of the King Ranch. He was a soulful interview, though a tad full of himself, as befits his stature.

He pulled off some bad shit towards the end, like getting fucked up on hog tranquilizers and trying to outrun the police driving a car on wheel rims from Georgia into South Carolina. He didn't do anything half assed. So bless his heart, and bless Hubert Humphrey, who James told me was his role model. James stopped the riots when he played a free show in Boston the night Martin Luther King was shot. He advised kids to "play it cool, stay in school." He made it real for African-American children when he declared "Santa Claus Is Gonna Come To The Ghetto" in song. He did the second most famous song from the Rocky movies next to "Gonna Fly Now" with his last chart hit hurrah "Living In America." He went beyond cool when he observed "sister's on the outside, doin' a brand new dance" in "Lickin' Stick" ("Mama, come here quick, bring me my lickin' stick"), he invented a dance based on a snack food ("Popcorn"). He trailblazed soul, rhythm n' blues, funk, and twelve brand new dances.

And now he's gone. No more stuck pig squeals, no more Good God, y'all, no more calling out "Maceo" when he wanted to hear some horn.
But it was good for the getting when you could. Eiiiiiiiiioooowww

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