The One: The Life and Music of James Brown by R.J. SmithId probably give this 4-and-a-half rather than 5 (for the reason I mention below), but Ill round up with the Goodreads star system.
Great, great stuff. Smith nails the extremely difficult task facing every music historian. He manages to simultaneously narrate a coherent and compelling biography of his subject, discuss the music in evocative detail, and put his subject in a historical context in a manner that is convincing without seeming contrived. This is REALLY hard to do, and Smith accomplishes it with clarity and absolutely beautiful writing. I not only learned a lot about Brown and his world (which is a HELLUVA story), but gained insights into U.S. politics and culture that were either totally new to me or hadnt been articulated in such an effective way. Smith did his homework, and the level of research is clear on each page. So too is his love for Browhs music and his understanding of his artistry.
But this isnt hagiography by any means. Smith lets the musicians, ex-girlfriends, business partners and others tell their sides of the story, which are often maddening and occasionally downright nasty. (The stuff about Browns brief, abusive relationship with Tammi Terrell is particularly gut-wrenching.) Throughout, Smith makes the convincing case that the paradoxes which guided Browns life and career - his simultaneous commitment to individualism and communalism, the way his politics veered from razor-sharp analysis to vague platitude - can only be understood in the context of Black and Southern experiences in the United States. This is not a new insight about Brown, certainly, but its beautifully detailed here. He starts with the Stono Rebellion, and everyone from Strom Thurmond to Amiri Baraka has a substantive role in Smiths presentation.
My one semi-caveat is that Smith occasionally scrimps on the details of specific sessions and the creation of recordings. This is understandable, perhaps, given his wide scope. Also, to be fair, he devotes many beautiful pages to the music and its meanings. Still, there are moments when the discussions of individual records take a bit of a backseat. That being said, Im not really complaining, especially since it made me want to cue up the STAR TIME compilation and rediscover the records for myself. And that is a victory for any music writer.
Great book for casual fans, hardcore heads, or any student of U.S. history. James Browns life and work deserves a whole bunch of books, and this will be a great addition.
James Brown ~ Papa's Got A Brand New Bag (1965)
A progenitor of funk music and a major figure of 20th-century music and dance, he is often referred to as the " Godfather of Soul ". Brown began his career as a gospel singer in Toccoa, Georgia. During the late s, Brown moved from a continuum of blues and gospel-based forms and styles to a profoundly " Africanized " approach to music-making that influenced the development of funk music. Brown continued to perform and record until his death from pneumonia in Brown recorded 17 singles that reached No. Rolling Stone has also cited Brown as the most sampled artist of all time. They later moved into a house shared with another aunt.
By the time he was in his 30s, James Brown was more than a dominant musical voice: he was an outstanding African-American personality, period. Important enough to be drawn into the murky waters of national politics as an inspiration and role model, he was also feared and sometimes ridiculed. But he would not be denied. Nearly stillborn, then revived by an aunt in a country shack in the piney woods outside Barnwell, South Carolina, on May 3, , Brown was determined to be Somebody. His was a fantasy, a sweet dream. But James Brown had singular talent, and the vision to hire the baddest.
The story Brown himself would often tell is that he appeared stillborn when he first came into the world, but that an aunt attending his birth managed to breathe life into him. He honed his talents further in prison, where he was sentenced to serve 8-to years for stealing from parked cars at the age of An experience that might have broken another man, however, instead inspired Brown to dedicate himself to music. At the age of 19, a highly motivated, worldly wise and ferociously talented James Brown walked out of prison and began his climb toward music greatness. Born on this day in , James Brown died on Christmas Day But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! On this day in , less than two weeks before her fourth birthday, Madeleine McCann of Rothley, England, vanishes during a family vacation at a resort in southern Portugal.
Further Reading on James Brown
In the book about his life, Living in America, James Brown told the author, "I never try to express what I actually did," regarding his influence on the American soul scene. What's put together to make my music—it's something which has real power. It can stir people up and involve 'em. But it's just something I came to hear. The music that James Brown heard in his head—and conveyed to his extraordinary musicians with an odd combination of near-telepathic signals and vicious browbeating—changed the face of soul. By stripping away much of the pop focus that had clouded pure rhythm and blues, Brown found a rhythmic core that was at once primally sexual and powerfully spiritual.
Brown was raised mainly in Augusta , Georgia , by his great-aunt, who took him in at about the age of five when his parents divorced. Neighbours taught him how to play drums, piano, and guitar, and he learned about gospel music in churches and at tent revivals, where preachers would scream, yell, stomp their feet, and fall to their knees during sermons to provoke responses from the congregation. Brown sang for his classmates and competed in local talent shows but initially thought more about a career in baseball or boxing than in music. At age 15 Brown and some companions were arrested while breaking into cars. He was sentenced to 8 to 16 years of incarceration but was released after 3 years for good behaviour.