Getting Funky with James Brown

Getting Funky with James Brown
There are a lot of words to describe this man. “Soul Brother Number One,” “Mr. Dynamite,” “the Hardest-Working Man in Show Business,” “Minister of The New New Super-Heavy Funk,” “Mr. Please Please Please,” “Universal James,” and of course, “the Godfather of Soul.” The range of his influences is just about limitless. This 73 year old, South Carolina man has been doing it since the 50’s. serving time in a juvenile institution for armed robbery, trying to make it as a boxer and then as a baseball player, were just a few steps JB took before getting involved in music.

Affecting Hip Hop was just one of his many influences. Most well-known Hip Hop artists have played with the classics he brought us in an attempt to recreate the greatness. From Nas’ ‘Get Down’ to Africa Bambaataa’s ‘Say It Loud’, we have heard Mr. Brown’s sounds all over. Even the Red Hot Chili Peppers are big fans of JB, with his sounds in their music. He brought us what is now known as ‘the spoken word’ in music, which has become an integral part of Hip Hop. He’s also brought us the piercing vocals, which at the time were certainly unusual for the music genre. His work had redefined African American music in this country far beyond Soul music.

Having served 3 years in prison in his later years for threatening random citizens with a shotgun, being married 4 times and having gone through a stage of using a wide variety of drugs didn’t seem to slow him down. After selling the rights to his works for a fairly large sum of money, JB continued to tour and there is no stopping him. Immediately post his NYC performance at BB King’s, he was off to Rochester, NY. One of his supporting vocals, Sheila Wheat shares: “I’m from Atlanta, Georgia, but we don’t get to go home much. After this tour series is done the summer tour begins.” Cynthia Moore joins her with the same sentiment. She may be from Buffalo, NY, but she doesn’t get to go home much either.

JB’s band may have walked out on him in 1977 for being overworked, but nowadays it’s a different game. His 20-person band is happy to work with the greats of this man. Afterall, if he can do it at 73, no one else has a valid reason for complaint.

5 guitar players, 3 drummers, 3 saxophone players, 4 back-up singers, 2 dancers, 1 solo act and 2 hype men is what James Brown brought with him on stage. Showing everyone a ‘funky good time’ with the ‘Godfather of Soul’, they all acted in complete unison. Showing off the years of experience he brings to the table, James Brown proclaimed: “It’s time to get back to the basics. We gotta show these young people how to play.” His idea of ‘back in the day’ goes just a tad further than what most are used to seeing. Giving out tribute, he obviously did not do so to an artist slain by violence. He played a mini-tribute to the great Ray Charles, who’s influenced JB so much over the years. He’s also spoken of the tragedy of Katrina.

Before too long, an incident took place right in the middle of the club. A man, having just undergone an operation, couldn’t skip JB’s concert. Luckily, it didn’t cost him much more than passing out, but the concert stopped for a good few minutes. But the show must go on and James was ‘Living in America’ and telling everyone that ‘I feel good’ before too long. Paramedics finally took the man away and JB’s hype man yelled “If you want James Brown to get down I want a NYC scream.” The club vibrated from the roars. Then JB came back by saying “I’ve been motivated like a ‘Sex Machine’”, and the classic blared. “Get on up!”

After the show, JB was treated like an absolute royalty backstage. No one called anything other than Mr. Brown. The list of his special condiments was longer than a regular person’s weekly shopping list. Then everyone waited while he cooled down, changed and came out for a few pictures. In a drastic contrast from some of his earlier years deeds, he was not only “The Hardest-Working Man in Show Business.” He was also the nicest guy to everyone. Not only has he stopped the show for the man passing out, he actually thanked the writer of this article for getting his attention. He was super polite, courteous and did not act like the star that he is to everyone. He was just a 73 year old man full of energy from down south. Departing through a private elevator, he left just that memory behind.

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