The man was as at home on stage as you are in your kitchen.
If you have it, put the 4 CD box set “Startime!” on shuffle. Doesn’t matter if you read this eight years after the fact. Jam on it.
BBC 6 will play James Brown’s October 2006 Electric Proms concert on Tuesday December 26. The link will be good for one week.
If you require visual accompaniment, youtube has lots of JB.
There was a New Yorker profile of Mr. Brown a few years ago where the interview apologized for failing to connect with his subject. The man lived so far inside his own head, all the erudite correspondent could do was quote him at length. What you got was a totally paranoid performer, locked in a groove he’d worked out. He didn’t know what other people thought of him – at that time, he couldn’t even respond to a direct question – but he really wanted to be liked.
The most thoughtful obituary I’ve seen, manages to suggest just how complicated the man was. He bossed his bands around, made some interesting political choices, pointed a shotgun at his neighbors while accusing them of using his personal bathroom before leading police on an interstate chase, and wrote Sex Machine, about which a lot of shit has been written:
Theorists since Adorno and Horkheimer have insisted that the popular arts only reconcile people to a cruel and inhuman system. This may be true, but it is still enough of a reconciliation to make life tolerable …
[T]hose who have the luxury of maintaining a critical distance from the world of capital shouldn’t condemn those who have nothing else handy to get them through the night. The songs worked. People listened to them, sang along, and felt heard and appreciated in small ways. They walked a little more proudly.
Structureless, static music works differently. It provides an escapism that is both deeper and more shallow at the same time. Deeper, because it evokes a state of physical arousal and heightened awareness; and more shallow, because that state exists on its own and can’t be connected with the story of anyone’s life.
– The Architecture of Dreamworld:Like a Sex Machine Michael Steinberg MR Zine 10-31-05
Yeah, but … if it can’t be connected to the story of anyone’s life in particular, it can be applied equally well to everyone’s life in general. Word. The leftist blogger at Fire on the Mountain actually appreciates the music, while noting that JB’s politics reconciliation-loving politics were hardly consistent. An incarnationof black captialism, black pride, and the DIY esthetic. No obituary is any more coherent than his subject.
Peace out, Mr. Brown.