It's late Christmas Morning and I just got the news.
The planet just got a little colder.
He was scheduled to appear at B.B. King's on New Years Eve. I remember seeing him there in February of 2003, in fact there is a large framed photograph of him from that performance hanging in my apartment.
I had the honor of seeing him a few times; the last place was at The Gathering Of The Vibes in July of 2003. He headlined the Friday night show. It opened with Keller Williams, then Dickey Betts and Great Southern and Deep Banana Blackout.
And then in the middle of this Woodstock-like festival, in the middle of this field full of thousands of space cowboys and girls came The Godfather of Soul, James Brown!
At this stage of the game of life I have come to the conclusion that there are only two kinds of people on earth&those who get it and those who don't. If you don't understand what James Brown was doing at a jam band festival surrounded by artists like those who opened for him that night and acts that would follow in the next few days, like the Allman Brothers Band, Gov't Mule, and Rusted Root you just don't get it.
That's fine of course, but the new generation of hippies at the festival did. They got him the same way a sold out crowd at The Apollo in Harlem always got him.
Photo: Chris McKay
To say that James Brown was the best does not do him justice. He was beyond the best&he was James Brown!
Last year, upon hearing about the death of Wilson Pickett, I wrote a piece called "The Last Big Holiday Show: Wilson Has Left The Building." Check this out: "Pickett, I mean God damn, if I had to break it down . . . you know, really think about it . . . Soul Brother Number One is and always will be James Brown. In the second spot, Otis Redding. I mean, "Try A Little Tenderness" alone earns him that. The fact that the late great Bill Graham, a man who presented everyone and anyone who ever mattered in the history of rock, called Otis the greatest live performer of all time would surely earn him the number one spot of all-time great soul singers. That is if this one of a kind, nothing ever like him before, nothing ever like him again, the real Elvis, James Brown didn't exist.
But you know, life on this planet is a trip, and I don't know what kind of past life karma Mr. Redding brought along with him for his journey, but the fact is this as incredible as he was, and as unique, sensational, magnificent, and totally mind blowing as he was Mr. Dynamite was just a little better.
I met Mr. Brown on three occasions. I documented one of those times in his 'Best of the Best' entry that you will find elsewhere on this site. The point is I have had the privilege to have met and worked with many celebrities and no one holds a candle to Mr. Dynamite. He was pure excitement and the reaction of people who came in contact with him was always one of pure joy. James Brown made people feel good!
As a man he ran into trouble from time to time. He made some mistakes along the way, but he cared about his people and his fans and always gave them 120%.
As a performer, singer, and innovator he was perfection. You can't compare him to anyone else because there was nobody else like him&ever!
His live show? Energy&flash&excitement&. raw emotion&purity. Words cannot do justice in describing a James Brown performance. There will be no more.
Fortunately, DVD's and all of his recordings will help him live on forever.
Volumes will be written about him, and justifiably so. All I have left to say is thank you and Merry Christmas James! There's gonna be some funky time on the other side tonight!