Today, December 25th, means different things to different people. To many, including myself, it will now forever be the anniversary of the passing of one of music's greatest artist's ever: James Brown, aka The Godfather of Soul, aka The Hardest Working Man in Show Business. Exactly one year ago today, Dec 25 2006, James Brown died at age 73 from congestive heart failure resulting from complications of pneumonia. And that shocking news, which spread fast and kept getting retold over that whole holiday week last year, put a damper on the festivities for many of us.
So this December 25th I say spill a lil on the curb for James Brown in his honor or drink a toast to the man's memory. And be sure to listen to some of the incredible legacy he left behind. What is amazing about the music of James Brown, and of course the stellar JB band (as witnessed in concert footage below from '71), is that it never ages or loses its edge or uplifting vibrancy. And I for one can literally listen to James Brown all day long and never get tired of it.
R.I.P. James Brown. We will never forget you!
Singer, pianist and songwriter Bobby Byrd, who is credited with discovering James Brown in the 1950's and consequently was one of the Godfather of Soul's main collaborators for twenty years, died September 12th of lung cancer at his home in Georgia. He was 73 years of age.
Byrd, who many may know from shouting that famous refrain "Get on Up" on the James Brown hit "Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine," also co-wrote that song. He is additionally credited with co-writing several other James Brown hits that included "Talkin Loud and Sayin' Nothin," "Get Up, Get into It and Get Involved," and "Licking Stick." And at James Brown's funeral late last year he sang "Sex Machine" and "I Know You Got Soul." In fact, it was an ugly dispute over the the authorship credits of this latter song (1971 hit single) that led to the parting of ways between the two artists.
How Byrd originally met Brown in the early 1950's is a pretty interesting story in and of itself. Reportedly Byrd's religious and ever-charitable family helped secure Brown's early release from a juvenile detention facility in Georgia. This was after Byrd, as part of an outside visiting baseball team, met Brown behind the detention walls. The two young men first bonded over baseball and then later music. After Juvenile Hall Bobby Byrd's family providied a home for the young James Brown. While there James joined Bobby's gospel group, the Gospel Starlighters, which soon after became more of a secular/RnB group and called themselves the Famous Flames. By this stage Brown's superior talents were obvious and he became the group leader and later a huge star. However Bobby Byrd stuck with him as part of that group and later the JBs for a total of twenty years, including such performances as the famous Live at the Apollo recording.
Crime was formed in 1976 by Johnny Strike, Frankie Fix, Ron "The Ripper" Greco (ex-Chosen Few/Flamin' Groovies), and Ricky James. They ripped post-hippie San Francisco a metaphorical new one when they released their first (and many say Punk’s first) single “Hot Wire My Heart / Baby You're So Repulsive.” There was no mistaking these guys for mere rockers; they mixed a rebellious and sexually-charged image (they were most often seen flaunting their vampiric, just-outta-rehab good looks in tight leather, regulation police uniforms, or old-time gangster duds) with their unique blend of intellectual and furious lo-fi rock and roll. Crime found local refuge at the now legendary Mabuhay Gardens, but became nationally notorious after playing a gig at San Quentin Penitentiary in full police uniforms (of course).
In 1977 Hank Rank joined the ranks, but left in 1979. The band split in 1982 when Strike quit Crime to focus on writing. Frankie Fix attempted a Crime reunion in the early 90’s, but Strike elected not join in. In 1996 Frankie Fix passed away.
My son just named his new guinea pig “Sally,” and though I’m not a fan of rodent type critters, I think Sally is pretty cool. Also, guinea pigs make this really odd electronic kind of sound when their excited.
Some time ago I wrote about a Jean Dushon single on Atco Records “I’m Tired,” produced by Phil Specter. And with absolute over the top aplomb I ranted, raved and foamed like peroxide on a road rash about that track. “How,” I thought “can it get any better than this?” A discovery like this, out of the blue, only happens once in a lifetime to a lowly record store employee.
I went so far as to write that my aching back was miraculously healed by the Bo Diddlyesque drumbeat; it had to be the vibrations!
Well … I may have been wrong; I know this revelation may surprise you. I’m generally not one to exaggerate. Really. Anyway, my backache returned and eventually worsened, but did I lose hope? Almost … but no! I felt that somewhere down the line something greater, something deeper was going to breathe life back into me, an empty shell of a man. Carpe Diem! Corpus, Mens, Spiritus! E pluribus unum! Eureka! Ars longa vita brevis!
A few months back I discovered a 7 inch record from a somewhat obscure singer, Anna King … and this time I think I actually had a religious experience. My back wasn’t healed, but I swear to god I didn’t have an asthma attack for weeks. It’s as if my ears and lungs and bronchial tubes were touched by healing hands.
“Was that you Katherine Kuhlman?”
Long ago I discovered that the flip side is often the hot side, and "Sally" is the B-side to "Mama’s Got a Bag of Her Own", a kind of a dig at Anna King’s old boss. "Sally" is an impossibly soulful, medium tempo ballad with just a hint of a musical arrangement. To start with, there’s a little piano, a touch of a bass line, a kick drum and all the room in the world for the vocals. King first starts off a little breathy, a little hesitant, telling her dear friend Sally about her no good boyfriend. But by the end the full band kicks in and the vocals just lay it on the line: Sally should just forget about that son of a bitch, because as Anna King plainly states, “I’m gonna steal him from you.” And I thought they were pals! I just don’t have the words to explain the greatness of this cut. Find it, if it takes you a decade, it would still be worth your time. Think of it as a religious pilgrimage. I’m serious!