The Aquarian Weekly asked me to react to the death of James Brown for a cover story that the paper is doing next week. Here’s what I wrote:
As I write this, thousands of people are lining the streets
of Harlem, hoping to have a chance to view the body of
James Brown, which lies in state at the Apollo Theater. That’s a sentence that
I never though I would write, because I never thought that James Brown would
die. He hardly seemed mortal.
Brown performed at the Apollo many times during his storied
career. Perhaps the most legendary show was the 1962 appearance that became the
basis of one of the best live albums ever recorded. Brown was intent on
capturing the energy of his live show on record, and when his record company
refused to pay for it, he financed the recording himself. Now he’s making his
final appearance at the Apollo, before being taken home to Georgia for his final rest.
James Brown died on Christmas Eve in an Atlanta hospital. He was 73 years old. He had been admitted a couple of days earlier
with pneumonia, but remained convinced that he would be well enough to make his
scheduled New Year’s Eve appearance at B.B. King’s in New York City. It didn’t
work out that way, and as Rev. Jesse Jackson said, it was just like James to
die on Christmas Eve, when he knew he would be the center of attention.
There are fewer and fewer giants walking the earth. The
legendary Ahmet Ertegun passed away recently, and now James Brown is gone.
These are not people who can be replaced. I found myself wondering who would be
the new “Godfather of Soul” now that James Brown is gone. Sadly, there are very
few candidates for the title.
There is hardly a genre of popular music that doesn’t count
James Brown as an influence, and if any artist can truly be said to be
immortal, his music will live forever.