I can’t think of a performer as intense as James Brown in terms of both talent and personality. There really isn’t anyone close. And it wasn’t always fun to watch.
I know the outlines of his story — poverty that was so intense that he was sent home from school for “insufficient clothing” and all the trouble that came later. Maybe I am over analyzing or indulging in a bit of pop psychology, but he seemed to pack it all–the humiliation and the triumph–into each performance. It is sort of overwhelming and exhausting. And I didn’t even see him live.
Brown died on Christmas Day, 2006. Here is The Washington Post on Brown’s legacy:
Generations of musicians listened to James Brown, looked at him and took what they could, regardless of the kind of music they played. Much imitated, he was ultimately inimitable. Someone once suggested Brown was to rhythm what Bob Dylan was to lyrics, and there’s no arguing that when it comes to foundations of American popular music, Brown is right there with Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, Elvis Presley and Dylan — creators whose innovations changed everything around them. (Continue Reading…)
Above is “Please Please Please” and below is “Night Train.” Both are from the same performance on the T.A.M.I. Show, which is a 1964 concert film.
(Home page photo: Heinrich Klaffs)