A real-life living legend, JAMES BROWN has spent
five decades blasting out
soul classics. A trip to
prison a few years ago
hasn't dampened his
spirit, so when the
jailbird sings, The List is
there to listen.
Words: Dan Welle
THE GODFATHER OF SOUL admits he‘s getting on a bit. It‘s a rare chink in the armour of the American music legend who refuses to reduce the energy levels of his electrifying stage shows. despite the fact that he now qualifies for a bus pass. In fact. one American record label recently released a James Brown compilation album to celebrate his 70th birthday — despite the fact that he has only just turned ()5.
The one-time juvenile delinquent‘s life has been one of the most colourful of all America's 2()th century singers. and his career spans five decades. Recently he cut down from 350 to 40 shows each year — concerts which are now usually crammed into a two month spell — but Brown isn’t quite ready to give up his twin crowns of ‘The King Of One Nighters' or 'The Hardest Working Man In Showbusiness'.
Rattling off a list of hits. he promises that his forthcoming performance at Glasgow's Clyde Auditorium will also be one of ‘blistering high energy". In fact. so ingrained in the popular culture are these old favourites. that it‘s hard to believe that they‘ll all be on one bill. He insists no one will be disappointed by the choice of ‘Papa‘s Got A Brand New Bag'. 'Get Up I Feel Like Being A Sex Machine‘. ‘Living In America'. ‘I Got You (I Feel Good)’. 'Please Please Please’ . . .
As an OAP. Brown doesn‘t appear to have lost his enthusiasm as a live entertainer. He also believes he has become more popular than ever in the 1990s. with a younger generation of fans now tuning into his sound through rap and hip hop.
14 THE UST 9—23 Jul 1998
‘I feel good.” he yells out with genuine warmth. ‘Wbat I've seen is a whole new awakening for the James Brown sound because now everybody‘s doing it. When I first started many. many years ago. you could only hear it by going to church. In fact. you could only hear it by going to a certain type ofchurch in the States. But today. everybody in the world is doing it. from America to Russia. from America to China. from America to Scotland. 'I‘o Ireland and Australia. way down to South America. Now there is a profound spirit of love that goes everywhere. and I thank God for it and I thank the people for it.‘
Yes. the Godfather of Soul has found God. It does seem to have taken him quite a while. considering that his career was founded on original gospel music
sounds. There were the wife-beating allegations. of
course. And he finally decided The Lord had a point. after a Smokey And The Bandit style car chase in 198‘). which culminated in two concurrent six—year jail sentences. of which he served two years before being released in 1991. He repented — as in. that's all in the past — and that's where James Brown likes to keep the history: unless. that is. he is talking about his greatest achievements.
‘The highlights of my life have been appearing on the Ed Sullivan show. singing “Please. Please. Please".’ he remembers. ‘Another highlight was when I was stopping the riots in America after Dr Martin Luther King was killed in the ()(Is. My highlights also included when I recorded “Don‘t Be A Drop Out" for young kids to stay at school. "Please Please Please" started my career. Before that l was a
'I feel good. What I've seen is a whole new awakening for the James Brown sound because everybody in the world is doing it, from America to Scotland.’