Before becoming ’’the Godfather of soul’’ and ’’the hardest working man in show-biz’’, he was just a cute boy called ’Little Junior’ or later ’Music Box’. His aunt once told him ’’the world will hear about you’ one day’ and she was right!
Born on May 3rd in 1933. in a poor family in South Carolina, James Brown was, from the very start of his life, not very lucky with the cards he was dealt… Except, of course, for one tiny trifle – he was given a divine (or diabolic, whichever you prefer) and to that moment unseen sense of music and rhythm. His concerts according to contemporaries were like a transition into another dimension, which is not a surprise – rhythm, dance and words being repeated like a mantra brought James Brown’s shows as close as possible to the ritual stage trance of the 60’s (the famous ‘act’ with the cape affirms that, reminding of a refusal to return to this world by casting it off).
As a small boy he shined people’s shoes next to a Radio he never dreamed he will own one day and danced to entertain soldiers for a few coins. Shoeshine in the early childhood is one of the things that will make his and the image of his band always impeccable (moreover, the musicians of the Famous Flames were considered the best dressed orchestra in those years, all thanks to their leader’s supervision).
He first got into gospel when he was a teenager which turned out to be grounds for his future r’n’b style. Later on, he took a lot from swing and implemented it in his sound, and for the famous scream the inspiration was none other than Little Richard. He danced in a unique way, to put it simply, making his colleagues desperate (on one occasion Mick Jagger watched him behind the stage traumatised, waiting for his turn in the then famous T.A.M.I. Show). The James Brown’s sound would not be the same without his musicians (the mentioned Flames) that created that perfect rhythmic noise, while at the same time always closely following and emphasising his every move. In the 80’s he gets a new nickname – Тhе Мinister of new super heavy funk – and once more confirms his status of a music icon, the man who permanently changed the music world.
When we think of him the first thought is that of raw pace, although his beginnings were not quite like that. In the 1963 not only did the Beatles become famous with the word Please (me) – Brown’s first big hit also had almost no other words aside from that one. In fact, ‘please’ was repeated so many times that the producer thought it is doomed to fail. However, as seen so many times in show biz, he was wrong and Please, please, please was a major hit that opened the way for other great songs. Papa’s got a brand new bag, I feel good, It’s a man’s world, engaged lyrics promoting black power and equality I’m black and I’m proud, I don’t want nobody to give me nothing and the first true funk song Cold sweat (the sax motif inspired by Miles Davis’s So What). When he stopped performing with the Flames at the end of 60’s, he brought new young musicians in and for the first time the bass guitar was given a new funky role. That’s when the Sex Machine came along and the Funky drummer (one of the most frequently used samples in hip-hop).
Although the whole Century has not gone by yet, the year 1933. seems like it was a hundred years ago! Even in this moment, no matter what kind of music they prefer, kids would not stand still when the soul scream of Mr. Dynamite announces the brass flame and guarantees about 5 minutes of feeling good! And that is the most impressive and significant thing about James Brown’s music – it is truly timeless! So check out our playlist of 10 songs that marked his career, the music of 20th Century and most surely the years to come: the timeless gospel of the ultimate survivor!