Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Death Of The Godfather

It is with a great sadness (but with characteristic style on his part to do it on Christmas Day) that I post about the death of James Brown, the 'hardest working man in show business', 'the Godfather Of Soul', 'Soul Brother Number One'...

Music has lost one of it's last standing true legends. A seminal force in soul, funk, gospel and rhythm & blues, plus a major influence on most modern music, such as hip-hop and electronic music, he was also an astonishing performer whose onstage presence and style inspired many others. Even in my own live shows, I have stolen a few moves from the man and worked them into my live character (although I could never claim to be as funky as he was!).

His BBC obituary can be found here and the Wikipedia entry is here.

Back in 2000, the summer following my redundancy from my job, James was due to play at the Essential Festival on the outskirts of Brighton. Naturally, the meagre redundancy package I'd received from my retail post had gone by then (mostly on a trip to Paris in the spring) and I was beginning to scrape by on what I got for dole money - never a great deal at the best of times.

When I heard that Brother James was coming to town, I knew that I simply had to be there. How often does somebody like him play in your own backyard? Perhaps once in a lifetime. The downer was, there was simply no way of scraping the pennies together to come up with a means of paying for a ticket.

Luckily for me, I work pretty hard at keeping up good friendships. To my great surprise, my best pal from my college days came through for me and bought me a ticket as a birthday present.

The meaning of true friendship = 'being an enabler, helping to hit a dream'.

We all trooped along to see James live and it was exactly as you'd expect from a James Brown show. He was the showman. He did his best known songs. He wore his costumes. His band was tight as hell. He had an energy that shouldn't have been there at his age. His stage presence put so many other younger performers completely to shame. He even did his 'falling on the floor and being covered in his cape only to shake it off and get it on again' routine.

Of course, a cynic could easily have described it as some sort of soul nostalgia cabaret but I felt that JB's energy, conviction and respect for the audience shone through and rode roughshod over such barbs. After one of his shows, you feel exhausted yourself, as if what he puts in takes away some of your own energy too.

Below is a compilation of clips from his live career (and my first video posting too). Dig the man...

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