Monday, January 1, 2007

James Brown: Prophet

I listened to him as a child, then teenager, and later as an adult. The purity that was James Brown was amplified as I grew older. I didn’t understand a word he uttered on stage -- prophets don't always have to make sense. That was part of his mystique and performance.

It’s early ’07 and already I miss James Brown. The "Godfather of Soul" was a messiah-like figure for ‘60s kids. While I was growing up, he (like Miles, Coltrane, and Smokey) led me and my friends on this great musical and idea-laden journey. (James Brown seemed most approachable among that group of '60's Gods. Maybe it was seeing him so often on Dick Cavett and Mike Douglas and not seeing the others as much.)

I loved his songs. They spoke volumes. The lyrics and beats were so rich. His song "I Got the Feelin’" is just one example. With an alto sax wailing in the background, Brown summoned and pleaded "Baby, baby, baby, baby... baby, baby, baby..." That expression was like a pebble bouncing around in my head for years! How do you talk to woman like that? How do you reflect so much emotion in one, repeated word? I used it once or twice but totally ineffectively.

Another example: Like Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”, when James Brown sang "Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)", he grappled with big societal issues. From a 45, Marvin Gaye and James Brown were prophets of transformation.

Here’s my prayer: “Heavenly Father: Please take care of your son, our brother, James Brown. His time on earth is over, as You know. He is joining You. When he walks through Your gates, embrace him. He brought Your voice down to Your other children, all hungry for unvarnished words of truth. Thanks also for leaving his voice on vinyl, 8-track cartridges, tape, cassettes, CDs and .mp3. This will keep Your voice in his forever alive.”

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