I saw the James Brown Story and just a few days ago watched the HBO Documentary titled Mr. Dynamite. I would suggest that, if you have not seen them, you should. Therefore, I want to pay homage to “Mr. Brown” for his impact on the world. For all of his faults and problems nearing the end of his career, Mr. Brown was a force and not just in the entertainment field but as a ground breaker. I think all black people should admire him if for no other reason that for his hit recording – “Say it loud I’m Black and I am Proud”.
I was a teenager at the time when the song was released, and it was a game changer. It was at a time when the slogan “Black Power” was spoken privately among ourselves and during what was still the Jim Crow era. He had the nerve to release the song, which was could have ended his career right there, but he take a stand with this powerful message. Mind you, this was just shortly after the time of “Race Music” and for those who don’t know it was when white artist stole black music and black music was not allowed to be played for white people to hear or radio.
The untimely death of James Brown in 2006 left a huge void in what was once called “Soul Music.” Young people today don’t realize the relevance of Mr. Brown’s accomplishments, although I doubt if Brown himself ever doubted his own significance as a historic figure and an undeniably game-changing artist. His showmanship and art altered the music world, but James Brown didn’t bring blacks to the mainstream; instead, he brought the mainstream to blacks and made them appreciate and internalize black music and culture.
Everybody who has ever heard a song by Mr. Brown has attempted to tell his story and try to dissect his complex and multi-layered life. Regardless of the varying opinions most have failed to fully capture the depth of value that Brown and his music played in transforming American life.
A New Year Times reporter RJ Smith wrote a book a few years ago titled “The One: The Life and Music of James Brown where he said:
“Smith not only effortlessly highlights James’s unmatched musical career, but also provides a well-studied historical context for the basis of his artistic expression. Chronicling the legacy of resistance through music, Smith explains how James’s artistry was closely linked to the struggle for civil rights as well as the cultural expression of blacks, from Africa through slavery and the journey into the 20th century. It would after all be impossible to discuss 20th-century music and the civil rights/black power movement without putting James Brown at the top of that list. And “The One” is the first serious book to explain precisely why.”
“When you reflect on the life and legacy of James Brown, it cannot be explained without taking into account the period in which he was raised and the experiences that shaped his identity. But just as important is how he incorporated his social/political views into his music in a way that was soulful and entertaining beyond belief.”
James Brown was an enigma, and I would imagine by his own design, which could very well be the price of fame. Brown who grew up in the harsh and segregated south where the conditions of his upbringing could and should not have promised the multitude of success obtained throughout his career. This was accomplished by hard work, grit, and dogged determination. His life by virtue of being in the entertainment business was made up of constant challenges and hurdles, but his perseverance and tenacity — coupled with sheer talent — provided the world with a lens on the American black experience.
The article stated that “The One” thrives in highlighting how James’s irrefutable genius and artistry transcended social blockades and eventually drew audiences from all sectors of society. The funk originator never compromised his roots and never sold out in order to be accepted; rather, he made the world revolve around him. But despite his tremendous achievements, his success was still limited.
The hardest-working man in showbiz not only made us “black and proud” but he also possessed a soul rooted deeply in equality and justice for his people. I will not attempt to rewrite a story that has already been well written nor have I read the book because I live his life with him. I am suggesting that to understand the greatness in a man that so many have tried to tarnish – maybe we credit him for being there and doing what he did for us to benefit from today.
He was no doubt the King of Soul, created Funk, and birthed Hip-Hop – to which we all should be grateful. I don’t believe there are any perfect men, but there are men with perfect intentions. Therefore, I’m going to overlook any faults or frailties the man may have had and just say as Mr. Brown said so boldly in a recording at a time – “Say it Load I’m Black and I’m Proud” – Rest in Peace Mr. Brown. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…