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James Brown Was the Hardest Working Man in Show Business

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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…)

Check out Out of Sight, Living in America, I Feel Good and Sexmachine. Biography tell the story. Here is Brown’s Facebook page and a discography.

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)


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Here’s What’s Here

The Daily Music Break explores every genre of music, from hip hop to opera. It's simple: Boundaries are dumb. It's all good. Here is more about the site and here is our index:

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

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Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.


What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.


The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.