Sunday, December 31, 2006

Got Soul? James Brown was a master teacher

The Godfather of Soul is no more.

It feels like only yesterday when KPOO [89.5 FM] DJ's Donald Lacy, Harrison Chastang and others of us were ending each show with the call "FREE JAMES BROWN" to protest his 1988 arrest and several years of hard time served. Brown is now Free.

James Brown was a master teacher. Ricky Vincent's The History of Funk Show on KPFA a few nights ago highlighted Brown's music, role in the civil rights movement, and also how he integrated his politics and social commentary in his art. He said that Brown "belongs to all of us."

In his History of Funk analysis Vincent says that Brown changed the structure of Black music more than any other person in history. Brown 'Africanized' Black music by changing the rhythm, the structure and the manner in which soul/Black music was played, according to Vincent. In 1968 Amiri Baraka called Brown "our number one Black poet."
In the Funk World 1969
If Elvis Presley/ is
Who is James Brown,

I cherish an old 1984 EP with Brown and HipHop "godfather"Afrika Bambatta urging UNITY in the fight against racism, war and nuclear devastation. And, when I played "Say It Loud" to my 6 year old daughter Jade a several years ago it touched off an interest in music and her search for her own heritage and identity. Besides being drawn to Brown's screeching and grooving, Jade liked hearing the children singing the chorus - "I'm Black and I'm Proud!." When she later asked me: "Daddy, am I Black?" because of Brown and her predominantly African American classmates in her school in SF's OceanView/Ingleside neighborhood, I gently broke the news to her that she was not. But I told her that she should be proud of being Asian, Hawaiian, Japanese and Chinese and try to be an ally to African Americans and other oppressed peoples as well.

Brown's influence was worldwide - P-Funk Pioneers like Parliament and Funkadelic to Pop Icons like Michael Jackson and Prince owe a debt of gratitude as well to the Godfather of Soul. KRS-ONE says that Brown sums up the "entire black struggle" in his music. Learning about Brown's life is a sharp lesson in the struggle for self-determination of African Americans in the United States.

Of all the pieces on Brown's passing I've read, I think KRS-ONE sums up James Brown's life best in - How will James Brown's death affect Hip-Hop?

KRS-One: James Brown is the Grandfather of Hip-Hop, of course recognizing Kool Herc as the father. You're talking to a 25 year theologian, and Christ is my s**t. Jesus is my s**t, that's my n***a! [Laughs] This guy, James Brown, dying on Christmas is very symbolic. Dying on Christmas, we know God is looking at us! We established right here and now. According to Christian tradition, James Brown dying on Jesus' birthday means that Hip-Hop starts today. ...James Brown passing on Christmas could mean the birth of Soul in you. He is the Godfather of Soul – not Pop, not R&B, not Rock, not Blues, not Jazz – Soul music!

We should print the lyrics of "Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)" and we should say it every Christmas. [KRS recites lyrics] He summed up the entire Black struggle. James Brown dying on Christ's birthday shows not only who he was – Christ returned – but that Hip-Hop has a chance, politically, to take a day. Let's celebrate James Brown! Hip-Hoppers celebrate the birth of their Soul, the birth of their Christ, the birth of their nature. Every Christmas, we gonna play James Brown records. ..

There is nobody who is more influential to Hip-Hop than James Brown. Kool Herc said that James Brown was the A-1 b-boy, the first MC, the first DJ – 'cause he had two drummers. The drummer was what the turntable was today. When one finished playing, the other'd start, and sometimes they'd play together! ... James Brown is our artistic father. We all sample from him. This is a day where we exchange gifts. The gift exchanged with us from James was our culture. He freely gave his music to our culture. To me, that brings tears to my eyes! That's some god s**t. That's the lord and savior. On December 25th, James Brown gives the gift of himself to his children. What's the gift we should be givin' back? We should be givin' back his request. "These record companies stole from me, get it back." Get it back, children. There should be a James Brown Soul Museum, not a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. James Brown.

The Godfather is now FREE - and his "fabulous flame" burns brightly in me, my daughter and hopefully many of us.
Celebrating James Brown's birthday a few years ago Davey D wrote:

I swear to God when I speak at schools I'm amazed how kids who love Juvenile, BG and Jay-Z will draw blank stares when you mention groups like X-Clan, Jungle Brothers and even Public Enemy. They're completely at a loss when you start talking about James Brown, George Clinton and others. Sure they may have heard the names, but they never heard the songs. Sadder still they have no idea of their importance. Hence, that is the reason for penning this article. It's up to us to make the necessary changes.
Click Here to listen to KPFA/Ricky Vincent/History of Funk's tribute to the Godfather of Soul
Click Here for Davey D's Blog on James Brown's Passing
Davey D's Hip Hop Corner
Ricky Vincent's History of Funk
KPOO - Poor People's Radio


wiregrasslegacy said...

James Brown was a proud black man who also acknowledged his Asian and Native American heritage. He writes about this in his autobiography. Sometimes Asian workers from both India and China would marry into black communities in the south as most of those who immigrated were men. Ethel Waters, the African American singer and actress fromt the 1940's comes from a similar background.

Eric Mar said...

thank you for letting us know about brown's multiethnic heritage!

nisha said...

Thanks for this useful information that you have been shared to us readers. I am looking forward for your next post! Good luck for your next post