He gets to the Mike, twirls, shuffles on one leg to the right, then back to the centre on the other leg. Meanwhile the band is playing a funky beat with horns blasting. He gets into the song and spins and drops into the splits and this goes on song after song. That is brother James Brown, who is active continuously throughout the whole show until he drops to his knees and his assistant places the first cape on his back. He gets up and starts to bop off the stage, when he throws off the first cape and runs back, drops to his knees two more times until the gold cape is placed on his back. That is when you know the show is over.
James Brown is considered one of the main catalysts in the development of soul music. There were others like Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Solomon Burke and Aretha Franklin who during the 1960s made soul a household sound throughout the United States, the Caribbean and Europe.
The Godfather of Soul
I remember seeing James Brown in Montreal, Canada, several times. He was scheduled to perform in Canada 2007, but he never made it. He died Christmas morning 2007. The show always started out with his introducer voicing “the hardest working man in show business, soul brother number one , the Godfather of Soul, Mr. Dynamite James Brown. Once James came out on the stage that was it. If you could stay in your seat while he was on stage, someone needed to check your pulse. He really was one of the hardest working men in show business.
James was born, according to his official website in May 3, 1933, just outside Barnwell, South Carolina. He would regularly get into trouble with the law, which in 1949, would eventually caused him to serve time. Although he had tried his hand at singing. It was while he was in prison that he got the calling so to speak. While in prison he met a gospel travelling family who sponsored him when he was paroled in 1952.
The Gospel Period
Being his sponsors James made decided to make music his principal objective and sang gospel with Sarah Byrd and the church club. He then progressed to her brother Bobby Byrd’s group, the Gospel Starlighters or the Avons, depending on what or where they performed.
New Orleans, back in the 1950s and 60s was known as the home of the Blues. There were several artists however that were exploring the mixture of gospel and Rhythm and Blues (R&B) that would become to be known as Soul Music. Singers like Ernie K-Doe, Barbara George, Irma Thomas and Betty Harris are prime examples of the pioneers. James and Bobby Bird saw the writing on the wall and after touring the south for a couple of years and seeing artists like Fats Domino, Hank Ballard, decided to switch from gospel to Soul
Hardest Working Man In Show Business
The group’s name was changed to the Famous Flames and signed a recording contract with Federal Records in 1956. James Brown and the Famous Flames first multi-million hit was “Please, Please, Please,” the song he would end every show after that. His next major hit was “Try Me”. Throughout the 1960s and 70s he would be on the charts with hits like “It’s a Man’s World,” Poppa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” “Sex Machine.”
Did you know that Bootsy Collins and his brother played as James Brown’s backup band? That was about the time when James was transitioning into the Funk and would influence a generation of musicians like Parliament, Ohio Players, Rick James and many others. Some of Michael Jackson’s dance moves where influenced by him and they appeared together at one of James Brown’s concerts. In the early days of Rap and Hip Hop a lot of artists used James Brown’s music to create their sounds. Artists like Public Enemy, Snoop Dog (Lion Dog), Jay Z, Kanye West and more. He still remains the most sampled musician of all times.
What is your favourite memory and song of Mr. Dynamite? Let me know.
“It’s a man’s world, but it would be nothing without a woman or a girl.”