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Brother James Takes the “Night Train”

Brother James Takes the Night Train
Brother James Joseph Brown, the self-proclaimed “God Father of Soul” left this world on Christmas Day, 2006, age 73. Brown expired from a complication of pneumonia in Emory Hospital Atlanta, long considered his ‘home town’. Considered an Icon in the realm of soul and rhythm & blue music, Brown’s career spanned more than 50 years, in which he won several Grammy awards for hit recordings such as Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag, Out of Sight, and Black and Proud. Brown often billed himself as “the hardest working man in show business”, and anyone who had the opportunity to see in a live performance, will most likely agree to this.

I had the pleasure to see “Brother James” in at least 6 performances during a 25 year period, beginning in 1964. He never failed to both entertain and amaze me in his dancing, and other antics on the stage. James got his big boost when he performed several gigs in the Apollo Theater in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood. After that, there was no looking back, and he afterwards deserved the acclaim of being the star of stage, screen and television.

James Brown literally put Soul Music on the map, making this combination of gospel and rhythm & blue music immensely popular with all ages and ethnic backgrounds. His show antics, included wearing a collection of capes and other items, which he often threw into his delighted audience, as well as collapsing onto the floor; only to be helped up and ‘revived’ by his show staff, and throwing even more items to his fans.

Though his personal life was a bit ‘problematic’, including serving a two and a half year prison sentence for assault, he bounced back and received a special Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammy Awards in 1992. Brown’s concert appearances took him all over the world, including Israel. He had bit parts in numerous movies and even starred in some dealing with his career.

James’s musical achievements inspired many performers who imitated either his music or dancing style. Some of these included Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. One performer, the late Otis Redding, once said that “if I was a dance floor, I would like to have James Brown ‘mash potato’ all over me”. And ‘mash potato’ he did, as well as the ‘funky boogaloo’ and a number of other dance numbers, many of them not only nameless but impossible to duplicate as well.

James Brown had the wonderful ability to adapt and diversify his music to fit the times, which made him perennially popular to generations of audiences, from R & B to Hip-Hop. He frequently made appearances on T.V. talk and variety shows, including Oprah Winfrey, and Jay Leno’s Tonight Show. At nearly every live performance, James included an old R & B song “Night Train”, in which he ‘traveled’ the country with his music. He has now taken that final Night Train, and though gone, will never be forgotten.

4 Comments

  1. Have Mercy! Wolf Man Jack, a long-time L.A. DJ was a big promoter of
    “Mr. Dynamite”. If the ‘wolf man’ is still alive, I’m sure he
    is grieving Jame’s passing as all of us soul fans are.

  2. What a nice tribute Maurice. Indeed, he will not be forgotten. To be remembered by a song in my heart, “I Feel Good” Wow!

  3. velvel in atlanta

    December 28, 2006 at 8:43 pm

    …and he was indeed the hardest working man in show business and really wore out the audience, holding him up for sainthood is getting on my nerves. but do we really want to deify someone who beat the hell out of at least one of his wives? and while portrayed as the “playfather” of al sharpton did not cuff ol’ al’s ears when he climbed over the backs of others for prominence while picking their pockets? or while portrayed as the “playfather” of jesse jackson did not cuff his ears for being a shakedown artist and talking “hymietown”?

  4. Whatever his personal problems were, James was a hell of a good
    entertainer. Look at Hollywood if you want to dwell of personal
    faults of entertainers and celebraties.

    Not to mention politicians, of course.

    As for me, I would have liked to have been in Times Square, or
    New Years Eve, ‘booging it’ with Brother James!

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