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Thursday, December 28, 2006

James Brown, RIP

Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Carl Perkins, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, The Beatles, Hendrix, Ray Charles, Queen, Nirvana - just a few of the names that come to my mind when thinking of people who forever changed the musical landscape for the better and for future generations. Names that propelled music in a new direction, setting and defining a new line in the sand, a standard never set by anyone preceding them.

Oh yeah, this too was the impact of James Brown , The Godfather Of Soul.

He died on Christmas Day at the age of 73. His unique impact on music was indeed one of those landscape changing moments. Brown had some God-given talent to mix key elements of soul and blues with big-band style horns, saxophones, strings, gospel choir and a Rap beat - years before what we define today as a "Rap beat" - and tweak it with his distinctive voice, setting a standard that others would follow but never redefine or surpass. Even if your taste in music wasn't his music, you have to acknowledge his groundbreaking contributions and influence in music.

Some of the items various items being published that I've read about him:

- He had 60 Top 10 R&B hits, more than any other artist. But less than a dozen Top 10 Pop hits.

- "Those funky horn arrangements and shrieks that define many a Prince song? They defined Brown's music year before."

- He was a consummate professional who carefully orchestrated everything, from his shows to his songs. He wasn't known as a songwriter, but he wrote or co-wrote most of his hits.

- He [perspired] so profusely that people in the front row thought is was raining.

- Grammy in 1965 for "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag"

- Grammy in 1987 for "Living In America"

- Grammy 1992 - Lifetime Achievement

- Born in one room house, raised in poverty

James Brown, the Godfather Of Soul, a textbook definition of the Ultimate American Success Story, a man who worked for it, earned it in every way and deserved the rewards that come with it. Yeah, he had a few problems with the law, liquor, other substances and the ladies - well, so what - who doesn't? He paid his fines and did his times. What more do you want of any man?

I like a lot of talented singers and groups. When one of them I like dies, I try to keep from gushing at how I much I liked them for what they gave us artistically. No doubt they deserve the praise, no doubt about that.

But when they change the scope of their craft, bringing in innovations that, as a result, make everyone else in that craft change what they're doing, the impact cannot be overstated. James Brown is one of these innovators.

"Living In America" - From Rocky IV

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