Monday, December 25, 2006

"Godfather of Soul" James Brown, Dead at 73 -- "From Augusta, GA"

By Rick Pearcey

From AP -- "James Brown, the dynamic, pompadoured 'Godfather of Soul,' whose rasping vocals and revolutionary rhythms made him a founder of rap, funk and disco as well, died early Monday, his agent said. He was 73.

"Brown was hospitalized with pneumonia at Emory Crawford Long Hospital on Sunday and died around 1:45 a.m. Monday, said his agent, Frank Copsidas of Intrigue Music. Longtime friend Charles Bobbit was by his side, he said.

"Copsidas said the cause of death was uncertain. 'We really don't know at this point what he died of,' he said.

"Along with Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and a handful of others, Brown was one of the major musical influences of the past 50 years. At least one generation idolized him, and sometimes openly copied him. His rapid-footed dancing inspired Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson among others. Songs such as David Bowie's 'Fame,' Prince's 'Kiss,' George Clinton's 'Atomic Dog' and Sly and the Family Stone's 'Sing a Simple Song' were clearly based on Brown's rhythms and vocal style."

A few James Brown memories:

* Christmas -- During Christmas season, we would sometimes drive by the home of James Brown to see the Christmas decorations. We would always look for the black Santa Claus.

* Toronto -- A man and a woman on a date stop me on a street in Toronto. It's the mid-1980s. The guy is trying to convince the girl to go to a James Brown concert that evening. He asks my opinon. I tell them I'm from Augusta, Ga., as was James Brown, and that whatever else they're thinking about doing, the only real option is to go see James Brown perform.

* Augusta, Ga. -- My dad retired from the Army at Ft. Gordon, near Augusta, Ga. I graduated from Butler High in 1969 and did my undergraduate work at Augusta College (now "State University"). So Augusta is about as close to a "hometown" as this "Army brat" will ever get (born in Aschaffenburg, Germany).

Sometime around 1968-69 on the highway into town, I remember first hearing the refrain on the radio, "I'm black and I'm proud." Musically, I was not impressed. But over time, I came to enjoy not only that song (both the sentiment and the music) but also such James Brown hits as "It Is a Man's World" and "Living in America."

* A Favorite Episode -- My memory tells me that James Brown tried to get out of traffic violations by claiming "diplomatic immunity" because he was the "Ambassador of Soul." Checking the web today indicates it may have been his wife claiming immunity because of the dignitary she was married to. I look forward to an honest, fact-based biography of this man and his times.

If you read the news reports, you'll see that James Brown had a difficult life, a tough upbringing, and he made unfortunate choices as an adult. Today, his friends mourn the passing of a brother, his fans celebrate the gift of his creativity and music.

Today is Christmas. We recall how, in utter contradiction to religio-political authorities then and materialistic authorities now, the true source of human creativity entered the world by choice. A hard world in which to live an unforgettable life. An imperfect world in which to demonstrate the triumph of good over evil, creativity over chaos, redemption over indifference, science over materialism, and the humanity of God over the inhumanity of man.

The rest of the AP story is here.

Rick Pearcey is editor and publisher of The Pearcey Report.

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