Goodbye, Mr. Brown
Leave it to James Brown to die on Christmas, then have a multi-city touring funeral. He deserves a big finish, though his death is the kind that makes you think about your living parents and the world, and realize that some things really do come to an end. Unlike with other musical heroes who have died in recent years, I don't find myself wishing I'd interviewed Mr. Brown. However ultimately mysterious the human being was, you can't help suspect that the journalists around him, the memorists, the authors of his biographies, his autobiography, the 2003 documentary, and that recent in-depth Rolling Stone profile, got just about as much information out of the man as anyone was ever going to get. Not that Brown didn't have more to say to us, and more music to make, or that there isn't much more to say about his music.
But he was well covered, and in the end, better appreciated. I'm proud of suggesting to Steve Perry that he call Alan Leeds, and the beautifully edited result is the remembrance in this week's City Pages. Someday I'll interview "Funky Drummer" Clyde Stubblefield again. For now, my only contribution will be to say that JB's influence on popular music as a whole was never seriously calculated before 1988 (I know, because I read every last word about him then). That was when hip hop began taking his music apart to see how it worked, something I'll probably keep doing for the rest of my life, too. James Brown changed rhythm, period. To paraphrase DJ Shadow: Thank you for inventing modern music.
James Brown links (updated through January):
Photos: Rolling Stone photos
CD: Star Time
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