April 5, 1968, when Martin Luther King was assassinated, Brown no
longer had time to ponder the weight of his role. Within 24 hours,
in one of his life's signal moments, he turned a pre-scheduled Boston
concert into a living plea for peace in the black community. Broadcast
live by last-minute arrangement, his ploy was so successful in cooling
city streets that the tape was run again the moment Brown's performance
was not the first or last time James' voice would be used to ice
anger and violence - with slogans like Don't Terrorise, Organise
and Don't Burn, Learn. And the following weekend, the singer
flew to Washington DC, where disorder had been especially destructive
- and there continued his pleas for restraint via live TV and radio.
after, Brown "met with" the US President, Lyndon Johnson. He then
flew his band to Vietnam, leaving behind him a new record -a "patriotic
rap" called "America Is My Home". This trio of events poured gasoline
on the flaming rhetoric of black militants, who pictured the contradictory
icon as an assimilationist, an Uncle Tom. After all, Brown's work
had - to use a Hollywood term - made crazy bank during the '60s.
And the conspicuous rewards he had accrued - the jet, the radio
stations he owned, his mansion in St Albans, New York - hardly helped
discredit complaints that James had bought into a system ruled by
even the censure of militants could not check Brown's record sales
among blacks. On the contrary, his every new release was received
by soul's core audience as half of an ongoing dialogue.
used by literary figures such as author Richard Wright, the term
"Black Power" had been brought to political prominence in Greenwood,
Mississippi, during June, '66, by SNCC's Stokely Carmichael. But
in its three syllables echoed the words of Malcolm X, spoken two
years before: "Revolution is never based on begging somebody for
an integrated cup of coffee. Revolutions are never based on love-your-enemy
and pray-for-those-who-spitefully-use-you. Revolutions are never
compromising. Revolutions overturn systems. And there is no system
on this earth which has proven itself more corrupt, more criminal,
than this system that in 1964 still colonises 22 million African-Americans,
still enslaves 22 million African-Americans."
year after framing those sentiments, the former Malcolm Little was
dead. And, during the next three years, as US News & World
Report noted on November 13, 1967, 101 major riots had occurred
in US cities, killing 130 people and injuring 3,673. The damage
would total $714.8 million. And King's assassination quickly upped
the ante: more cities were paralyzed, more people hurt, more homes
and businesses and communities destroyed. Meanwhile, the body count
from Vietnam was increasing.
Brown entered the studio in Los Angeles that summer, all these things
were on his mind. So was the expanding charisma of America's young,
ultra-macho Black Power figureheads - celebrities who used black
style to animate their romance of revolution. Brown cut "Say It
Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud" as his statement, his answer
record to Stokely Carmichael and company: it was his demonstration
that JAMES BROWN still spoke from the heart of black America, and
for the street.
the song framed his demands for the race in personal, individual
experience: "I worked on a job with my feet and my hands / But all
the work I did / was for the other man / Now we demand a chance
/ to do things for ourselves / we're tired of beatin' our head against
the wall / And workin' for someone else." The refrain of the title
came in two parts: Brown's command to "Say it loud!" and the reply
from a chorus of children (most, as he confessed in 1987, either
Asian or white): "I'm black and I'm proud!"
song also included one line which, in later years, Brown would blame
for the loss of many white listeners. That line was, "We'd rather
die on our feet / Than live on our knees."
Brown would come up with lyrics whose political analyses were more
literal, like those of 1969's "I Don't Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing
(Open Up The Door, I'll Get It Myself)" or 1974's speeded-up funk
syncopation "Hell". Both contain inspirational verse lamenting the
limits of opportunity in Black America. (1969: "I don't want
nobody to give me nuthin' / Open up the door -HUH! / I'll get it
myself, DO YOU HEAR ME?... Don't give me integration, give me true
communication / Don't give me sorrow, I was equal op-por-tun-ity
/ To live tomorrow! / Give me schools - HA! - and better books /
So I can read about myself and gain / my true looks".
in 1974: "It's HELL tryin' to make it when you're doin' it
by yourself! / It's HELL payin' taxes when there's no money left
/ It's Hell givin' up the best years, the best years of your soul
/ Payin' dues / From the day you're born - Good God!") But "Say
It Loud" articulated that status Brown had consolidated across Afro-America.
And it made his stature as a black icon explicit to white listeners.
the contemporary pop charts reverberated with Motown hits and with
the soulsters of Atlantic and Memphis (Aretha Franklin, Solomon
Burke, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and Co), "Say It Loud" set James
Brown apart once again. As a consequence, he would not see the inside
of pop's Top Ten again for 17 long years - until 1985 and Rocky
IV's "Living In America".
was all that so important to me? Because I came from a very poor
neighbourhood, a very poor element," he says in 1989. "And I had
to suffer the political problems of my community. Those problems
brought many people down; they still do it today. When I was growin'
up, if somebody called me "black" that had an ignorance to it, a
thing particular to itself. So when I was able to sing "Say It Loud,
I'm Black And I'm Proud", it meant something special to ME. And
it carried some weight."
the same time, Brown made another sacrifice. It was one to which
white America paid little attention, but one which stunned his own
people. To convince movement moderns that he was a bona fide "natural
man", James Brown sheared off his luxuriant, processed hair.
cut off my hair in Los Angeles, on Linden Boulevard," he told reporter
Christina Patoski. "I remember that very well. 'Cause I showed 'em
that this didn't hold me back. That it weren't the hair that make
the mind. They said 'How's he gonna be black if he don't cut his
hair?' So, I cut my hair." On the 1982 National Public Radio
recording, you can still hear Brown's laugh drowning halfway down
his throat. "And I ain't gonna cut it again UNTIL I'M GOOD AND READY!"
Brown's art has always been as much a politics of gesture as a matter
of polyrhythm. And in those orbits, dress and toilette play a central,
unambiguous role. "Hair and teeth," stated Brown firmly in his 1987
autobiography. "A man got those two things, he's got it all."
idea of high, high hair, curled and sculpted, first came to Brown
via Little Richard and 'Prince of the Blues' Billy Wright - a late-'50s
regular at prestigious black clubs such as Atlanta's Royal Peacock
Lounge. In his 1984 autobiography, Little Richard recalls
Wright wore "very loud clothin' and shoethin' to match his clothin'
and wore his hair curled."
stature was achieved through that straightening, neutralising and
curling procedure current in black life for twenty years - a system
which conferred its name ("the process") onto the end result. This
was also termed, when James Brown was young, "made hair". By the
1930s, such tall pompadour 'dos were known as "conks" - supposedly
a hipster contraction of the popular straightening lotion whose
name was No More Kinks.
could be home-engineered, following directions like those in The
Autobiography of Malcolm X, which feature lye, potatoes, high
heat and a cream to safeguard the scalp. Or they could be coaxed
up in that bastion of machismo, the black American barbershop. Either
way, a lot of care was needed to straighten scientifically -lest
the client be left with disaster and a frizzled scalp.
of the process were usually men who relished the social buzz of
barbershops: places which bridged a gap between the velvet night
of clubland and the dreary, 24-7 grind of daily domestic reality.
"There is no place like a Negro barbershop," said black author and
critic Ralph Ellison in a 1961 interview, "for hearing what Negroes
really think. There is more unselfconscious affirmation to be found
there on a Saturday than you can find in a Negro college in a month."
brother of the '50s," contends journalist Emory Holmes II, "transformed
the conk into a uniquely black mode of expression, as different
from the white styles that had inspired it as the music of Tin Pan
Alley was different from bop." ('King Konk', LA Weekly, 1988.)
And for '50s and '60s entertainers like Brown and Little Richard
Penniman, black men on their way up from Southern juke joints to
Harlem's Apollo, the lustrous, extravagant conk was a token of their
signified several things: that one had the leisure to build and
maintain it, the glamour to carry it off and the money to keep it
"right". The GI crewcut ("flattop") and Cab Calloway marcel wave
were styles blacks had to share with Caucasians. But the high-flying
conk, with its requisite baptism of fire and flamboyant results,
offered more deeply black credentials.
the '50s and '60s, it ran a series of variations on who and what
mattered inside Afro-America's socio-creative elite - rising from
the scalps of boxers, bluesmen, "sepia spieler" DJs and jazz greats.
But conks, just like James Brown himself, were really beyond the
law. What they denoted was aesthetic certitude - plus a spirit of
he married his late third wife Alfie (née Adrienne Rodriguez),
a hairdressing specialist he met on US TV's Solid Gold, Brown
was known to claim only one man ever got his hair "really right".
It was Henry Stallings, a country boy from Georgia James has known
since his own street-urchin days. Stallings made his way up north,
where he briefly worked as Sugar Ray Robinson's sparring partner.
When he gave up life as a punching bag, Stallings shifted to Robinson's
Harlem barbershop. (Perhaps the same Harlem barbershop where Jean
Genet heard Brown's "Prisoner of Love", providing him with a title
for his meditation on terror and sex.)
with Brown in New York, Stallings' triple-crown of connections -
childhood, boxing and HAIR - made him the perfect minder for Mister
James Brown's star ascended, so did his hairdressing bills. By 1982,
Parade magazine pegged them at "$700 per week" and noted
that, on the road, he is trailed by several suitcases of rollers,
dyers, relaxers and creams. Equally, the growth in his stature can
be measured by an increase in time spent on his hair.
a total ritual, a very central thing," says Gerri Hirshey, who discovered
this secret when she hit the road with Brown. "I was shocked, when
I first started seeing James, that he would hold court in the middle
of it all. I would die, you know, before I would let anyone see
me in rollers! But, after a while, I was just like everyone
else - I'd sit there and make his phone calls for him while he was
having it done."
has his hair dealt with twice a day, sometimes three times, if working.
He conducts much of his business by phone from under the whirring
hood of his drier.
hairstyles have always reflected change in Brown's economic, political
and social circumstances. But whatever the orientation of those
follicles - and he has moved from slick pompadours and conks to
the quadripart "high English" (both back sides and both front sides
swept into curves, then blended together) the "processed Afro" and
a full bouffant later sidemen secretly term the "ce-ment
wave" - publically, his 'do is always immaculate.
is part of that act of will through which he transcends the other
James Brown, the child whose name had passed unnoticed. ("Pronounced,"
he says, "like one word, 'jamesbrown'.") Hair is central to those
rites with which - using speed, action and shape - Brown turned
his small, dark self into Mister Excitement.
childhood friend Leon Austin, then proprietor of Leon's DeSoto Lounge
in Augusta, enlightened Gerri Hirshey about just what Brown's transformation
meant. "We were talking about why black people were so very enamoured
of James," she says. "And Leon, who has also done his hair, said:
'Let me run it down for you. James is dark, he's ugly. He
made the ugly man pretty because he made himself pretty. But, first
of all, that has to do with colour. He made himself pretty in
spite of bein' dark'."
the politics of Brown's showbiz, however, appearance is merely the
frame: the suggestive outline of a larger, more existential sacrifice.
For before the audience, Brown becomes a fusion of the preachers
who inspired him and the most atavistic, freeform US abolitionist.
He takes his transformed self, the highest, baddest, hippest character
he can construct, and - in a gesture which pierces the crowd to
its heart - destroys it just for them.
the frenzy of his dancing and pleading, even the most elaborate
'do inevitably starts to cascade. Within minutes, wet curls will
be clinging to Brown's face and neck, flopping onto his forehead.
In seconds, sweat has softened the sharpest lines of his elegant
clothing. Eventually, it will fill his shoes, anointing his back
and legs. Off come his glittering cuff links, often flung into the
audience. Shirt-sleeves hanging, knees stained with blood, James
has visibly "given it up" - for the listeners before him in the
is all part of established African-American performance traditions.
Charles Keil, in his book Urban Blues, wrote that "the body
emphasis, the effort ... are related to a concept of appropriate
and often hyperbolic movements which in turn may dictate a certain
style of dress. Cry singers invariably appear in Josè Greco
outfits, removing coat, tie and sometimes the shirt, as their stunts
become more strenuous. (This sort of stiptease or 'soul baring'
symbolises the idea of getting down to the nitty-gritty.)"
few performers have created a more powerful symbol of throwaway
cool - a greater gift to their audience - than James Brown, up there
destroying in seconds what it cost him the better part of a day
all its pomp and circumstance, for all its chauvinistic glory, the
essence of this practice also runs deeper than conventional showbiz
glamour and melodrama. Brown's self-demolition is rooted in the
backdrop to his tremendous ego and the spectacle it can create -
in profound religious beliefs. Those beliefs recognise that, like
it or not, all men are meant to be as one. People are created equal
but just don't exercise that thing.
Wesley: "That's something else about James Brown, that particular
contradiction. Because contradiction is the very thing which feeds
his nerve. He has the nerve to think what he says and does - whether
or not he believes it hisself - is going to be taken, perceived
as truth. But at the same time, you could hurt his feelings easier
than you could hurt a nun's feelings. He is just as fragile as he
is tough. Extremely insecure and extremely bold - both at the same
himself sticks to the language of performance. "The artist has to
reach, you know? You come to see my show, you get the atmosphere
and the feelin'. And I don't care how well-dressed I am, when I
come off, I am drenched in sweat. You know that I was workin' for
condenses and epitomises the alchemy Brown can practice. "When they
walk out, my audience knows I gave it for them. That I came on pretty
and nice and well-groomed in my tux or my beautiful clothes. And
I worked - I worked for them. Then I'll go and put on my
street clothes, my party things. When I put on my work clothes I
come to work. And I make sure my work clothes look good."
and satin jumpsuits appliquéd with lightning bolts; nineteen-inch
flared trousers or spandex drapecoats littered with zips; chiffon
neckerchiefs and straw Resistol cowboy hats - to some of Brown's
critics through the years, "looking good" has seemed rather relative.
once had this incredible encrusted thing they called the gorilla
suit," marvels Gerri Hirshey, "which weighed an absolute ton and
was made by Elvis' tailor at Alamo Clothes - a completely crazy
guy in Memphis, who has his wife embalmed in the living room."
the interests of international understanding, says Briton Cliff
White, he has tried to interest Brown in changing style. "I had
one lady friend who pointed out that James always looked a lot smarter
offstage than on. Offstage he'd wear tailored casuals - he had this
one tailored denim suit, for instance, in which he looked really
great, quite cool. He'd drive up to the theatre in that - but then
he'd appear onstage in outrageous loon pants or a jumpsuit with
mile-wide flares. When it's time to start dancing, he puts on a
different set of clothes, so he can move around."
the '80s, says White, he tried to convince his friend to adopt "a
sort of Little Richard look with short box jackets."
was trying to make James understand," he adds, "that if he did a
different show in London - with different songs and a different
outfit - he would get across much more. Of course, in the same way
I can't fully understand his background, he can't really comprehend
what the attitude is over here."
their resemblance to the uniforms worn by the black bellboys, waiters
and train station "Redcaps" of his youth, Brown did eventually
make the switch to short tailored jackets and matching pants. They
stay unwrinkled, he now claims proudly, on even the longest plane
is a practical man, but he believes in epiphany. When he was a pre-teen
dancing for dimes in the dust, showbiz did not immediately suggest
itself as real economic salvation. Yet circuses, vaudeville, minstrel
shows, barnstorming politicians and tent revivals, he admits, filled
his early imagination. So did rural evangelists with their theatrical
baptisms, fund-drives and conversions.
two men's art fused it all: the gospel fervour, the fairground exotica
and the music he loved ("I listened to everything round me in those
days. Records, jazz, radio, church - the guy whistling down on the
corner"). Men who suggested a syncretism which might embrace all
excitements. For 35 years now, Brown has praised their names, the
names of Louis Jordan and Roy Brown.
terms of both crossover sales and multi-media penetration, jump
bluesman Jordan and his Tympany Five stage band became a '40s phenomenon.
Brown remembers not just the singer's hits and performances, but
also his movies, like '47's Reet, Petite and Gone or '48's
Look Out, Sister. Plus, Jordan worked in Nickelodeon shorts
- a sort of early music video tied into the jukebox.
Brown, who hailed from New Orleans, was a different sort of star.
It was he who wrote - and initially recorded - Elvis Presley's later
hit, "Good Rockin' Tonight".
and Brown were personalities redolent of post-War America, an era
when swing carried the beat, and black citizens were stepping out
with a newly aggressive assurance. The industrial boom of the war
effort had brought blacks more and better jobs, greater purchasing
power and - particularly in Los Angeles - more cohesive urban community.
LA's Central Avenue (whose thriving music and club scene linked
the city's centre to black suburban Watts) helped refine the goodtime
dance music audible earlier in the '40s on discs aimed at the black
music would become famous as Rhythm 'n' Blues, a sound which shed
the nostalgia of the real blues so as to celebrate black America's
boisterous, exciting new moment.
came roaring out of the churches of black America, the black bands
of the swing era, and the segregated ghettoes of big cities," wrote
Arnold Shaw in his book Honkers and Shouters. "Gospel song,
heard in storefront, sanctified and shouting churches, gave it intensity
and excitement. The black bands contributed the beat and the boogie,
and nurtured the singers who became solo artists. The ghettoes created
the climate and provided the incentive for young blacks."
him, says James Brown, Louis Jordan and Roy Brown personified innovation,
what a person might do with dance music, with the vocabulary
of the church-house, with his wardrobe and his emotional history:
Jordan was one of the most dynamic guys ever took to a stage. Ever.
He had something you just like to look at. He did movies - and I
saw all of those. But I could never get up on movies, cause movies
don't let you do reality. That's my thing, reality. What Louis Jordan
gave me was a basic concept, a means of communication."
concept breaks down into several factors. Jordan, for instance,
carried a fairly large stage outfit (his Tympany Five would vary
between six and eight players). He also paid scrupulous attention
to changing fashions - assimilating the jivetalk and social preoccupations
of the day into polished, urbane numbers like his "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie"
(the 1946 million-seller which clinched his title as the "Father
of R'n'B") and "Let The Good Times Roll" ("Don't sit there mumblin'
/ and talkin' trash / If you want to have a ball / you got to go
out and spend some cash / And let the good times roll").
The Death of Rhythm and Blues, critic Nelson George has noted
how these songs constituted a "formal marketing strategy" whose
crossover aims were both clear and sophisticated: "The titles "Beans
and Cornbread", "Saturday Night Fish Fry" and "Ain't Nobody Here
But Us Chickens" suggest country life, yet the subject of each is
really a city scene. In "Chickens", for instance, the central image
is of chickens in a coop having a party that's keeping the farmer
from sleeping. But clearly the bird bash is just a metaphor for
a black house party that the farmer - perhaps the landlord, maybe
the police - wants to quiet. Jordan's vocal, sassy and spirited,
spiced with funny, spoken asides, is as buoyant as its shuffling
an ambitious outsider such as the adolescent James Brown, Jordan
made one thing intriguingly clear: cool could bridge many
social gaps which otherwise might seem insurmountable. With cool
on his side, a would-be entertainer could overcome pigmentation,
poverty, even a ground-zero starting point. Turn his world view
- however provincial - into a style and even a nobody might
become a potent, superbad Self.
says Brown, "I knew I could dance."
of the giant gap between his seat in the stalls and Jordan's graceful
command of the stage, James Brown says he never underestimated the
effort of maintaining an edge. Quite the contrary, his career has
been dogged by bitter criticism of his obsessions: Timing, Grooming
- and RULES. But, Brown explains, when you grow up without such
markers, the world is shapeless and formless. Rules can generate
a world wherein actions are meaningful. Rules are necessary
when it comes to creative belief.
and grooming, for instance. People think that's just everyday. But
clothes and grooming mean a lot. For me, that's due to the
fact that, when I started, I had to borrow shoes to do my dancin'
in. When I was little and first wore a suit, I had to wear tennis
shoes with it." ("Puttin on a half-pressed suit from the pawn shop
with tennis shoes, tryin' to be hip - I know where he's comin' from,"
rapped Brown on "Mind Power", a track on his 1973 "Payback" LP.)
says James, "At least I'd be clean. You look well, your hair's
groomed, you try to be respectable. Then you start to get somewhere.
And once you get there, it matters even more. Say you bring your
mother, your father, your aunt along to see me. You brag on James
Brown and you bring 'em to my show and I'm not up there clean and
pauses to let the horror sink in. "The good Lord," he notes firmly,
"gave me a real role model in Roy Brown. He dressed in suits all
the time. And he had a powerful vocal style." Brown says
all this with such solemnity it seems that he can taste a
connection between tailoring and decibels. "A great strength of
volume and a way of shouting I found very unique. Roy Brown was
RIGHT ON TOP OF HIS THING!"
in New Orleans in 1925, Brown became a vibrant figure in US R'n'B
from 1947 - when, after roving Texas and California trying to emulate
Bing Crosby, he recorded "Good Rockin' Tonight" for Louisiana's
Deluxe Records. But his big success endured only through 1951. James
Brown's future label, King Records, bought out his Deluxe contract
and, ironically, stalled his career over the five years they kept
would record successfully again - his self-issued 1978 Faith LP
"The Cheapest Price in Town" is one example. But he never really
made it back to the top.
Brown invested his tunes - like "Hard Luck Blues", a 1950 R'n'B
No 1 - with a truly incredible morbidity. His mellifluous voice
was both chilling and wide in its range; it combined a wild, aching
reach with an implicit touch of raw hysteria. The latter quality
constantly threatened to subvert the sleazy elegance of his phrasing.
Plus it kept the extreme lyrics in which he specialised ("Got the
blues for my baby / I'm down the river serving time / Yes, I shot
and killed my baby / Now I just can't keep from cryin'") the right
side of self-parody.
20 years later, to hear Roy Brown wail such lines - such as "I'm
gonna find my mama's grave, fall on the tombstone, and die!" - offers
something more than the techniques of melodrama. To hear Brown is
to feel the chill of life's genuine weirdness.
little wonder Roy Brown appealed to the would-be surrealist in James
- his is a voice that lends even the happiest circumstance Gothic
terrors. An Edgar Allan Poe of the blues, Brown has the sort of
vision to which rural Southern blacks only three generations removed
from slavery could certainly relate.
regard for Roy Brown is part of a politics of region too often downplayed
in evaluations of James Brown's work. James is not just "a country
person", but a Southern man, a South Carolinian whose trust in his
attraction to regional attributes is unquestioning. The emotional
expressionism, repetition and spiritual phantasmagoria which surrounded
and shaped his earliest perceptions play determining roles in his
to Cliff White in 1977, Brown said that his mid-'60s masterpieces
depended on finally leaving the South, and gaining exposure
to the cosmopolitan North: "My eyes started opening ... my brain
started to intercept the new ideas and thoughts. I became a big-city
thinker. And I started tying that in."
the determination behind his designs, the glue which held his projects
together, resided in an essentially Southern definition of who he
was. For black men in the South, survival - a favourite Brown topic
- is never a subtle affair. It calls into play high emotions, enormous
anger and existential solitude, not to mention mystical concepts
about eventual deliverance. The might behind great Southern voices
like those of both Roy Brown and James Brown is very real.
is born of a need to shout, to define and to hypnotise, in order
to be at all.
via gospel, blues, and jazz into "soul", this proclamation of self
is also rooted in a deep sense of competition. You can hear it in
black lyrical braggadocio and in that audible battle of wills which
contributes instrumental intensity to R'n'B. "There was a kind of
frenzy and extra-local vulgarity to rhythm and blues that had never
been present in older blues forms", wrote LeRoi Jones, now Amiri
Baraka, in his classic book Blues People. "Suddenly, it was
as if a great deal of the Euro-humanist facade Afro-American music
had taken on had been washed away by the war. Rhythm and blues singers
literally had to shout to be heard above the clanging and strumming
of the various electrified instruments and the churning rhythm sections.
And, somehow, the louder the instrumental accompaniment and the
more harshly screamed the singing, the more expressive the music
the Mason-Dixon line, where the black catchphrase "express yo'self"
doubles for "speak up - or else", such predilections made perfect
are part of why James' old pal Bobby Byrd sighs at the very mention
of Roy Brown and Louis Jordan - men who defined themselves as blacks,
as showmen, as all-American doers. At a moment of national
change, he senses, these performers managed to get the jump on cool
Brown and Louis Jordan!" says Byrd. "They were our absolutes.
Louis Jordan, he just sacked me when we saw him. Roy Brown,
too; from him, in fact, is where we got all that changing of the
clothes. He could just upset a house that way; he was changin' twice
a show. And what people didn't realise is he was a seamstress, too.
Roy Brown made his own clothes."
waits a moment so the information is truly conveyed. Then he continues:
"It's my belief that everyone gets something from somebody. Blues
came out of the church and we took that, made it a little funkier.
We caught everyone by surprise when that one drum part changed.
When Clyde Stubblefied came on with that funky beat. It was straight
out of New Orleans, what his drum was doin' .... the beats of it
was what their conga players do."
Orleans," he smiles, "ROY BROWN 's home town."
man who has hair and teeth and the funk may, indeed, have everything.
But if Jordan's cool was the carrot, Roy Brown's miserable solitude
was the stick which kept James Brown dancing one step ahead. Never
look back, black baseball star Satchel Paige is famous for saying
during the '30s, something might be gaining on you. It is
part of James Brown's funky genius that, through audacity and nerve,
he was able to harness fear, machismo and competition - then whip
all three into a genre which proselytised for unity and was, in
he would subsequently succeed in de-constructing this music
to expose its most African origins should guarantee him a place
in anyone's pantheon of global emancipators.
never knew I was makin' that many changes," says Brown today. "No-one
knew at the time. But I never could let the music change on me;
I never could. I had to express myself and bounce back. That dynamic
thing of expressin' was the strength I saw in Louis Jordan."