“Many people just believe that I can’t get sick, or they refuse to accept the fact that my body gets tired like everyone else. Well, I do sometimes, but there are so many people who depend on me for inspiration and support that if I wanted to get sick or slow down…I just can’t. I just can’t afford to slow down.”
James Brown’s body finally gave in and he died today of pneumonia at the age of 73. It is safe to say that there will never be another one like him. Brown was a legendary performer and one of the most influencial musicians of the past fifty years.
Unlike nearly everyone else in the greater soul community for whom the success of any soul artist was another rung up the ladder…James Brown was a Solo Man who forged ahead on his own, who, far from negotiating any kind of compromise solution to reach a broader audience, demanded that that very audience sit up and listen to what he had to say. There is no question he was ill mannered in his insistence, and that he was resented for it. Solomon Burke dismissed him as not a proper soul singer at all, and his own all-black band referred to him privately as “that greasy nigger,” but he was not to be denied. Long after Ray Charles had left the parochial world of sould and Sam Cooke was on the verge of Las Vegas bookings and Hollywood success, James Brown alone, a contemporary of both Charles and Cooke, was still out there toiling in the vineyards, singing self-created music that increasingly left both the idea of accommodation and the old tired formulations of r&b behind. Perhaps this is why he was called ‘our number one black poet’ by LeRoi Jones and hailed in 1969 as possibly ‘the most important black man in America’ by Look magazine (as well as gaining attention from SNCC leaders Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown). His music reached out with revolutionary fervor to a New Breed audience of blacks and whites. It was a militant culturally as any Black Panter political manifesto, without ever abandoning the past or its original audience. For James Brown remained firmly rooted in a sense of self and a sense of tradition that Black America had not always known that it had.
Peter Guralnick from, “Sweet Soul Music”
The Godfather of Soul is gone. Rest in Peace. Then get up off that thing, and shake your ass. It’s what the old man would want.