Tuesday, December 08, 2009

delanceyplace.com 12/8/09 - james brown

In today's excerpt - Paul Shaffer, musical
showman par excellence whose career has
included long stints as musical director with
David Letterman and Saturday Night Live,
delivers an encomium to his favorite
musician, the King of them all, the Godfather
of Soul - James Brown:

"The one artist that woke me up and got me
going - and, I must add, has kept me going
throughout my life - was the Godfather of
Soul, Mr. James Brown. James electrified me,
as he
electrified the world, beginning in my
precollege years. I loved
listening to the time-honored introduction
rendered by Danny
Ray, James Brown's formidable master of

" 'Now, ladies and gentlemen, it is Star
Time. Are you ready
for Star Time? Thank you and thank you
kindly. It is indeed a
great pleasure to present to you at this
particular time the artist
nationally and internationally known as the
man in show business.

" 'Yes, he'll make your bladder splatter,
he'll make your knees
freeze and your liver quiver. The star of the
show, Mr. Please
Please himself, soul brother number one, Mr.
Dynamite, the
man with the crown ... James Brown and the
Famous Flames.'

"Musicologists hail the sublime musical
contributions of
Mozart, Monteverdi, Beethoven, and Bach. Here
in America we
celebrate Louis Armstrong, Aaron Copland,
Duke Ellington,
and Charles Ives. The relative merits of
musical geniuses are
impossible to calculate. I won't try. I will
only say that, for my
money, James Brown is 'King of them all,

"It's the singing, yes: the pitch-perfect
screams that penetrate
your heart and freeze your blood. It's the
dancing, of course: the
spins, the splits, the grace, and the grit.
It's the band: tighter
and righter than any orchestra in the proud
history of soul. It's
the songs: the social messages, the sexual
subtexts, the self-assertive anthems of a
free black man in a white world. It's
everything. James Brown is everything I love
in music. ...

"[He was] the most ferocious barbarian of
all, ... and [in a typical] performance made
time grind to a halt, and the world stop
turning on its
axis. Dogs stopped chasing cats. Cats stopped
chasing birds.
Lions lay down with lambs. Babies ceased
crying. Women
stopped weeping. ...

"At the end
of a song, a cape was placed on James's back.
I sat in wonder. Why the cape? What were they
doing? James had fallen to his
knees, and perhaps the purpose of the cape
was to prevent a
chill after his red-hot performance. But as
he started to leave
the stage, he threw off the cape and returned
to the mic,
singing another stirring chorus. The
routine continued. He fell to his knees; a
new cape was placed;
then he got up and threw it off only to
return to the mic. Again!
And again! He couldn't stop himself. He
couldn't stop returning
to plead to his woman, 'Don't Go.' He was
truly out of sight."

Paul Shaffer, We'll Be Here For The Rest
of Our Lives, Doubleday, Copyright 2009
by Paul Shaffer Enterprises, Inc., pp. 80-84.


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