Thursday, December 28, 2006
The Hardest working Man in Showbiz
C'mon Chas , look at that statement- "James Brown was the most overrated singer/entertainer ever, and tis' B-sides were betterthan the best thing JB ever did", it's just like the punky know-it-all in the schoolyard who's gotta tell you that black is blue or the erath is flat, just to rev up a debate. Sure Otis was transcendent and had a whole lot better material and did indeed put on one hell of a live show but JB, in all of his egofied glory, had, by all accounts, perhaps the best stage show evuh (without JB there would be no Mick or Prince), an extremely tight band that pushed the music to an extreme towards pure, unadulterated rhythm, and his amazing unknown-tounge barrage of yelps, screams, and surreal hipster slang was as unique as anythang any jazz lead vocalist ever came up with--essentially making his vocal asides slound like another instrument, like a bleating, blaring, raging horn. Sure James was as dumbas a rock in many ways (last year's Rolling Stone story was comically sad), as the second half of his career clearly proved, but his instincts were uncanny, as wis his impeccable sense of style, hiis hall-of-fame hairstyle, and his civil-rights era sensibility (no one, not even the sublime Curtis Mayfield, managed to put it out there better than "say it loud, I'm black and I'm proud"). The contemporary JB was but a shadow of his former self, and his drug and marital side stories were as funny as they were pitiful, and he, like Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Bo Diddley couldn't seem to muster up the songwriting magic after his initial (and extended) fertile period (Whose to say that Otis, deprived of his Stax band mates and fellow songwriters might not have turned into another Aaron Neville?), but I caught JB (with Maceo Parker)at Brown U ten or so years ago and he could sweep you up onto the night train. JB was always in a world all his own (like many of our creative heroes, a world comprised of stubborn pride, blatant ignorance, a huge showbiz heart and soul, and a maniacal conviction that everything he did, or said, or sung, or danced, or even thought was absolutely right on--that's why he's an American music original, as brilliant and important and distinctive as Jimi henmdrix, Bob Dylan, or Frank Sinatra.