On this most American of holidays, it seems appropriate –if not obligatory– to celebrate the most American of geniuses.
It does not get any more American than James Brown, does it?
From the (literal) rags-to-riches story, the innovation and influence, the (inevitable?) disintegration and late-career redemption: James Brown is America. Brilliant, resilient, complicated, undeniable, inevitable.
Do you realize how ludicrously good James Brown was? You don’t. I don’t either. I’ve been worshipping at that altar for over two decades and, perhaps more than any other artist, I’m consistently astonished by that wonderful shock of recognition: how unfuckingbelievable he was; how many heads taller he stood, in terms of creativity, delivery and leadership, than the rest of the pack.
You hear the obvious, righteous songs on the radio, or on movie soundtracks: “I Got You (I Feel Good)”, “Sex Machine”, “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag”, “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World”. Those must be acknowledged, for their historic import and –more importantly– for how great they make you feel. James Brown does not just make you want to dance (he may even make you believe you can dance), but more, he makes your soul dance.
If you have not picked up the cheap and always-available 20 All Time Greatest Hits! you really need to make that a priority. If you really want to treat yourself (and you really should), snatch up Star Time, the four-disc set. If you’ve never gone deep with James Brown, this will be like getting lucky for the first time. Only better. And it never stops.
Please, Please, Please:
I’m A Greedy Man:
Talkin’ Loud & Sayin’ Nothing:
Doin’ It To Death:
Blessed Blackness (bonus: it goes even deeper. The J.B.s brought it, and brought it hard. One of the best joints from the ’70s and an all-time personal favorite. God Bless Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley!!!)