Monday, December 25, 2006

James Brown - last of the great R and B showmen

It had to come some time of course - the first of the six remaining true greats of 50s music has died - the Godfather of Soul, the hardest working man in show business, Mr James Brown. That he has survived this long is in itself something of a miracle, given his history of drink, drugs and prison, but survive he did, and was still a magnetic performer right to the end. I saw him live on TV when he was in London a couple of months ago and he looked and sounded as dynamic as ever.
From Please Please Please way back in 1955 and ever since James cut his own distinct path and influenced many performers. He came out of the rhythm and blues tradition - passion, showmanship, and most of all real soul. There are other soul pioneers of course, be no one could dispute that James Brown was in a league of his own. Hit after hit - they just kept coming and his funky approach was influenced by neither Stax or Motown. He virtually invented funk and was definitely his own man.
I first became aware of him with Think in 1960 and became a fan of to his music with his string of hits in the 60s - I got you, Papa's got a brand new bag, Have mercy baby, Ain't that a groove, It's a man's man's man's world - and followed him into the 70s with classics like Sex Machine. He managed to stay at the very top of his game despite a string of problems with drugs, wives and girlfriends and continued to thrill audiences right up to the present day.
There never will be another James Brown. He was in many ways a throwback to the 40s and 50s but he was totally unique. May the great man rest in peace.
PS The other remaining 50s greats are Fats Domino, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Jerry Lee Lewis.


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