Monday, December 25, 2006
Woke up this Christmas morning to the news that the mighty James Brown had died. I can't think of a worse Christmas present than losing one of the last true great authentic geniuses of popular culture.
The keyword is authentic, watching the clips that have played of James today on the news it was that word that kept coming to me. It's something that we are losing rapidly, that authenticity that so many of our disappearing great performers were possessed by.
James Brown leaves behind a monument of great recordings in the studio and a towering collection of live recordings. It's, of course, his demonically charismatic and impassioned live work that everyone always mentions. That shouldn't overpower his accomplishments in the recording studio. Listen to the 2disc compilation The Big Payback which collects his finest and most brutal funk from the late 60s and early 70s. One can imagine that, like Presley, his work in the studio probably resembled a live performance. It wasn't that he just wanted to entertain but something in his very nature demanded it. It's impossible to imagine that James Brown was capable of giving less than his all and even in his later inferior recordings he still possessed more passion than any of his contemporaries.
We've lost a flawed, gifted man who knew how to turn his demons into something that we could all groove to. We won't feel a fire like that again.