No more funky good times

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 26, 2006

James Brown, the &uot;Godfather of Soul&uot;, passed away on Christmas day.

There has never been a more influential or talented black musician in America, ever.

In fact, Brown may very well be the most influential song maker this nation has ever seen.

Brown’s music crossed racial and social boundaries that the color of his skin wouldn’t be able to cross until decades after Brown was already a household name.

I was a huge fan of James Brown.

When I used to work in the music industry my colleagues and I would spend many a day discussing how many different musicians used samples and snippets of Brown’s work to launch their own musical careers.

Rap music owes every penny that it has made to late soul singer.

Years ago, my brother Mark told me to pick up James Brown’s greatest hits on CD.

At first I wasn’t overly enthused because I just took Brown to be an old school singer who I wouldn’t enjoy.

At the time I was producing music for several rap artists and although I knew Brown had been sampled on a couple of rap songs, I really wasn’t all too familiar with his work.

After I bought the CD and listened to it I was blown away.

It was as if James brown had produced every rap record that had ever been made up until that point.

I recognized all of the hooks and breaks that I had grown accustomed to hearing in hip-hop and realized that Brown and his band, The JB’s, had done these tracks decades before hip-hop was even a concept.

Aside from his influence in rap, I was really taken aback by how much I thoroughly enjoyed the CD.

I was hooked after that.

Brown, like many Americans had his share of personal demons.

He battled with drug abuse, spousal abuse, womanizing and brushes with the law.

Nevertheless, he managed to will himself to success with a talent that was inconceivable to many people who performed before and after Brown’s arrival.

He was known as the hardest-working-man in show business.

From what I’ve read about his work ethic and what he demanded of those who worked with him speaks volumes about what a person can achieve once they find a way to do something that they are both good at and passionate about.

Will James Brown be recognized as the greatest rock-and-roll artists in history?

Probably not, that spot has been eternally reserved for the marginally talented Elvis Presley.

Let me tell you something, Elvis couldn’t carry Brown’s jockstrap.

He wasn’t even in Brown’s league.

Brown wrote his own songs, wrote songs for the musicians he worked with, was an incomparable stage performer and most of all, despite his shortcomings, he never ended up dead and naked slumped over a toilet bowl overdosed on heroin like Elvis.

To sum up Elvis’s career and influence in rock-and-roll as seen amongst blacks, allow me to paraphrase rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy fame.

&uot;Elvis was hero to most but he never meant nothing to me; a straight up racist Elvis was simple and plain (and that goes for him and John Wayne).&uot;

One of the more impressive things about Brown and others who performed during his time like Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Fats Domino is the fact that they managed to achieve what they did with a backdrop of social imbalance and racism that today’s black musicians will never have to endure, thanks to people like James Brown.

I have long ago lost my James Brown’s Greatest Hits CD, but rest assured I will be purchasing another as soon as I can get to a store that carries it.

Rest in peace soul brother number one.

We will miss you dearly, but thanks for what you left behind.