Wednesday, January 10, 2007

JB: Doing it to Death

Did I mention how much I love James Brown? When the GFOS passed around Xmas time, I was going to write something up but didn’t (obviously) because 1) I’m kinda lazy and 2) I wasn’t sure I could due justice to how bad motherfucking ass this guy was. I’m a huge fan and yet I didn’t know how to talk about him.

Well, he’s still not buried and there’s all kinds of turmoil over his estate; his creepy wife is crying to Larry King about being locked out of the house and Al Sharpton seems to have his hands deep into the Hardest Working Man in Show Business’ business.

I’m not one to think that someone can’t “rest” until their body is in the ground, so it doesn’t matter to me if he’s buried or not. I think they should keep him above ground like Lenin and maybe I can go to wherever he is and pay my respects ten years from now.

At any rate, JB was just super bad. As you’ve probably read by now, there wouldn’t be hip-hop as we know it without JB. His style, his delivery and in particular, his music, contributed more to modern music than anyone in past 100 years. He’s that fucking cool.

Prince is a poor man’s James Brown. All his moves, his crazy wardrobe and the bulk of his shtick are cribbed right from JB’s playbook.

Justin Timberlake wishes he could take a couple of hairs off of JB’s corpse because there is more funk in the man’s follicles than in Timberlake’s whole body.

The first time I ever saw James Brown was on TV and it showed one of his early performances where he does the thing where he pretends to be overcome with how hard he’s performing and has to be helped off. A guy comes out and puts a cape on him and helps him off, but right before he leaves the stage he regains his strength and tears back into it. I was just blow away by this. I didn’t understand it, but I loved it.

Listen to any of his music where he’s calling out to the band members and telling them what to do; it’s a testament to the incredible musicians he had working for him as much as it is a showcase for his total mastery of the music. It’s been parodied for a long time, but JB could wave his hand and the band would stop on a dime. Wave it another way and the horns would hit him however he wanted it. He was like a diabolical sorcerer conjuring a wicked brew that you couldn’t wait to suck down.

Put on “Greedy Man” with its relentless funk or the slow, sticky jam that is “The Payback” and try and tell me this man wasn’t some sort of musical god on earth. He was.
Listen to his songs and just try to identify all the samples that were later used in countless rap songs. It’s just too bad he didn’t get paid for it when he was getting the shit sampled out his songs…where were Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson then?

Regardless of my paltry words of praise, there literally won’t ever be anyone as great as he was ever again. We’re left with his legacy though, through his music and all the people who copied him, wanted to be like him or just plain were affected by him.

God speed JB. Give up, turn it loose.

JR

2 comments:

On The One said...

He was the originator, and he held his ground to the end. Some uber-noodly jam band that feebly gets down like soggy granola vs. the groove only James Brown and the Famous Flames/JBs? Please...

There are still so many good bands doing what they do and respecting the funk (don't get me wrong), and the funk DOES live. But without the man himself around it really sucks.
Everything - from the music itself down to the routine with the cape - was fucking genius.

When a famous figure I actually give more than a shit about dies, being agnostic (which is another way of saying "I'm an atheist, I just don't want to play Critical Thinking Circle Jerk with you right now") loses some of its luster.

Not saying I'm going to go start looking for faith I likely never had, but I think you sort of know what I mean. I think.

At the risk of changing subjects too quickly, your site kicks ass.

On The One said...

Whoops... that should have said "vs. the groove that only could have been laid down by James Brown and the Famous Flames/JBs." Or something similarly gushy.

I think my point was got across, but as it's a tribute to one of my real heroes I feel I owe him the final courtesy of accuracy.