I found this news out on Christmas day but put off speaking on it until today. It just seemed such a sad event to report on what should be an otherwise glorious day. I can still remember reading that he was admitted to the hospital a couple of days ago for pneumonia but was hoping it wouldn't amount to much. In the early hours of Christmas morning, the Godfather of Soul, James Brown died of congestive heart failure at he age of 75.
Unfortunately, I never got the pleasure to see him perform live in concert. I'm thinking even if I would have, by the time I would have been old enough to enjoy it or even appreciate who I was witnessing, he would have been well past his prime. That's not to say that I still wouldn't have jumped at the chance. I mean it would still be James freakin' Brown.
I was trying to think of when the first time I even saw him perform and the earliest I can remember is "The Blues Brothers". Although I had heard much of his music before then, that's when I first witnessed the force that was Soul Brother Number One. That movie was filled with excellent musical numbers and his was easily one of my favorite in the entire film..."Do you see the light?!"
Brown's influence reached through the years to touch generation after generation. Hammer wouldn't have been Hammer were it not for Brown's pioneering. In fact, even though Hammer tried to create a rivalry between him and Michael Jackson by implying the Godfather was in his corner, even MJ owed his beginnings to Brown. When Michael and his brothers very first auditioned for Motown, the did it to Brown's song "I Got That Feeling".
Then of course there's the world of hip-hop. I would venture to say that two of the most sampled R&B legends would have to be Parliament Funkadelic and James Brown. JB's breakbeats and music have served as the backdrop for many a hip-hop hit record. His moves can still be seen in Usher, Chris Brown, Justin Timberlake...take your pick of any of today's pop icons.
In his later days, James unfortunately became better known for his sordid run-ins with the law. However, his various cameo appearance in films tended to balance those out (at least in my mind). Not to mention that his already historic past gave him some leverage for fans to forgive his more recent shortcomings. He was definitely a one of a kind talent that will be missed. Here's to the hardest working man in show business...