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We now turn to the music of James Brown.

and the strange, in terms of the

discussion that we've already been
having, the strange kind of situation
where James Brown.
In his music makes hardly any concessions
to what might be thought of as
preferences and white taste, nevertheless
he releases record after record in the
1960's, in the 1970's, they cross over on
to the pop chart and have tremendous
So how can this be?
How can this be when Berry Gordy, Jr.,
you know, had it all sort of worked out
what it would take to get these records
to crossover that James Brown, who's not
doing any of those kinds of things is
having such success.
Well, let's talk about the career of
James Brown because he's a very
interesting figure.
Not only in the history of black pop but
certainly in the history of American pop
and music in the 20th century.
his early career James Brown was born in
uh,South Carolina but raised in Southern
He had regional success in the mid-1950s
with his group the Fabulous Flames, who
were booked By Little Richard's manager.
Little Richard, remember, came out of,
came out of the, the southern Georgia
area as well.
And, in fact, when Little Richard's Tutti
Frutti caught on nationally, and all of a
sudden, he was you know, a hit.
Artist and all that kind of thing, the
manager for Little Richard still had a
bunch of gigs booked, that Little Richard
was supposed to do but he didn't want
Little Richard to do them because he
wanted to send him off to do television
dates and other kinds of things that
were, that were out of Georgia, you know,
and out of that region and you know,
much, much bigger.
And so, actually James Brown did those
gigs for Little Richard.
And, and I can't tell you for sure
whether or not they even bothered to tell
the people who bought the tickets that
that wasn't [LAUGH] wasn't Little Richard
they were seeing.
But nevertheless James Brown got one of
his first big breaks by sort of being
Little Richard at gigs that had been
booked for Richard.
James Brown's first big hits Please

Please Please.
number six on the R&B charts in 1956.
James Brown was signed to King Records in
Cincinnati, which was run by Syd Nathan.
And had a very long standing relationship
with King Records in Cincinnati and with
Syd Nathan who became a kind of mentor
figure to James Brown in many ways.
James Brown's music in the 1950s is
mostly in the doo-wop style.
If you listen to Please, Please Please, I
think you'll say that it sounds an awful
lot like some of the other doo-wop of of
the era.
maybe a little sort of rawer in a certain
kind of way because already there's that
kind of passionate, enthusiastic James
Brown vocal sound kind of this sort of
aggressive vocal of his, you know a
little bit over the top with the pleading
the please, please, please.
but we we will begin to see a change in
that style when we get into the 1960's.
at, before we talk about that though,
it's important to acknowledge the, the
central role of the stage show in the
James Brown experience.
Often referred to as the hardest working
man in show business, by the early 1960s,
James Brown's stage show was kind of
famous on the R&B circuit, having a lot
of the elements in it that we have come
to associate it with James Brown through
the years, not only his athletic dancing.
Remember we talked about the Temptations,
before, and how, sort of, athletic and
and advanced their dance steps were.
Well, James Brown was another guy who
really,who did the athletic steps.
In fact, when Michael Jackson was just a
little kid, whenever James Brown was on
the television, his, his mom would make
him get in front of the television and
watch James Brown, and Michael Jackson
said how he was sort of transported by
James Brown who was the master.
And in so many ways we think about
Michael Jackson, who developed not only
is a child star into the late 70's and
certainly into the 80's, a lot of that is
taken from this James Brown very sort of
physical form of dance moves that he did.
And the other thing that's for James
Brown, if you've never seen this you
should look it up, look a video on the
Internet, is the routine that he has at
the close of a concert.
At the close of concert he acts like he's
so exhausted by the concert that he's
somehow delirious.

And his you know, his roadies come on and

they put like a, a coat or a jacket or a
you know, a robe or something on him.
And they start to lead him off, as if you
know, if they didn't lead him off he
wouldn't know what to do or he'd fall
And he's, he almost gets off the stage
then all of a sudden he throws the coat
off and runs back to the stage, and grabs
the microphone.
He's got some more energy left in him.
It does that a number of times.
And people came to expect this.
So it became sort of like a kind of thing
where if he didn't do it five or six
People really didn't feel like they got
their money's worth at the end, you know?
But it became his thing of saying, I'm
giving you every ounce of what I have
Because that's how important the audience
is to me.
And it became really his sort of.
His trademark routine.
That stage show really became a big part
of what it was to experience the musical
expression of James Brown during those
And so maybe it's not surprising, that
when they started thinking about ways
that they could build James Brown's
career they decided they would do.
A live album, in fact, that album was
released in the fall of 1963.
It went to number two in the pop charts,
called Live at the Apollo, which was
essentially James Brown, doing what he
was doing at that time, live at the
Apollo Theater in Harlem.
it really show cases his range, and, and
captures his energy, and, you know, is
maybe one of the most important sort of
early documents we have, of, of James
Brown as a sort of important cross over
Already we're talking about 1963.
Here's a guy singing in an unabashedly
sort of black style, singing for a black
audience in a, part of the city that's
you know largely black and he's got an
album that's number three, number two on
the Pop Charts in 1963.
Now, probably should say that back in
those days, album sales were not what
they were later.
I mean the album was really kind of a
secondary thing.
It really was a business about hit

singles at that time but, still that's,

that's a, a pretty dog gone good
performance for a 1963 with James Brown.
And that we start to see in 1960 his
music starts to become more soul
He sort of leaves the doo wop thing
behind you know, James Brown is often
known as the godfather of soul.
And so we start to get this tight and
driving style where the groove is driven
forward, by the bass and the instruments,
the, the bass, the guitar, the drums,
really sort of, getting into, kind of, a
great, kind of, groove, that has all the
instruments sort of, em, Interlaced into
almost like every instrument is a kind of
a percussion instrument, and the whole
tune kind of sort of rides on this
And on top of this groove, you have to
imagine James is doing his dance steps,
but he's also doing these, these lyrics
that are sort of I don't know, sort of
innocuous repetitive, sometimes a little
bit crazy or outrageous, but he's
definitely not trying to tell a story, or
talk about his emotional relationship
with a woman or any of the other kinds of
things that pop songs do.
It's almost like the lyrics themselves
are kind of extraneous and the voice
itself becomes another element in the
percussion element, and the percussion,
sort of fabric, of these fantastic
grooves in his music, develops during
that time.
1964 we hear Out of Sight, one that
everybody knows, Papa's Got a Brand New
Bag, a number one hit, on R&B charts,
number eight on the pop charts, 1965, I
Got You I Feel Good, this from 1965, It's
a Man's Man's Man's World, from 1966, and
Cold Sweat from 1967, all a very
identifiable style.
When you hear a James Brown record come
out in the 60s, it can only be one
person, and that's James Brown.
Music business people will tell you
that's one of the most valuable features
to have, is a real kind of sonic
Once people hear just a few seconds of
that record, they know who it is, and
that's how those James Brown records
and like I said before one of the most
interesting elements of it is that his
music is so markedly black in a lot of
kinds of ways.

And we could you know, you might, you

might think about what constitutes
markedly black.
What are the musical features, if I
didn't know this artist were black, how
would I know from just listening to the
music itself that he or she is?
And it's an interesting kind of question,
the more you think about it the harder it
is to really answer, but most of us, I
think, really get a sense that we know
what that is intuitively, even if it's
very difficult for us to externalize or
articulate, exactly, exactly what
constitutes that.
But, whatever it is, his music was viewed
as markedly black but makes no
concessions to whites', white taste, so
then, why was it so popular with white
And I think it's because he had that, he
had that characteristic kind of sound
that was his own, his own kind of
trademark, with the emphasis on the
groove, and the, the rhythmic, the
rhythmic hipness of what was going on in
the drive of it with that kind of
aggressive vocal, and the, the lyrics
that were almost nonsensical, in some
sense, just sort of kind of funny, maybe,
if you thought about it, and, and not
particularly kind of serious.
There was nothing really threatening in
the blackness of what James Brown was
It all just seemed to be a fantastic
celebration of the groove and the music
that was going on at the time.
So, while Berry Gordy is going for
elegance, James Brown is, is is going
just for the pure feel of his music.
these groups, these groups of his, were
so highly rehearsed they had a reputation
for actually fining members of the band
if they made a mistake.
They would rehearse like crazy.
So they got all this sort of intense
rhythmic interplay, absolutely perfect.
And if somebody made a mistake on the
bandstand, he would point to that person,
and afterwards he would dock their pay
for the gig.
Because they'd made a mistake.
How often that happened I don't know.
You, you, every body tells stories, you
never know what to believe.
But the feel, the idea is that that,
people thought that was the case, and so
they thought that meant that that band

was more thoroughly rehearsed than many

other groups would have been, at, at a
many other groups would have been at the
time that have a reputation for
Now as we, as we close this week and
start to think about the way forward, in
part two when we talk about black pop in
the 1970's.
One of the most important events in black
culture, American culture really in the
60's, but certainly it has an effect on
the music business on the history of
black pop is the assassination of Dr.
Martin Luther King.
That happens in April of 1968.
and in many ways, it's considered a kind
of turning point, not just in the black
community, but really in black music.
Even the guys in the Stax studio, Steve
Cropper, said, after that day, things
were just a little bit different in the
studio, even though there'd never been
any kind of racial tension among the
people working at Stax, it was just,
something, something was different after
And so you would think.
This would make certain artists angry or,
maybe more menacing in a certain kind of
way, the anger about Dr.
King's assassination.
In fact there were, there were riots
around the country, and people, people
were outraged and there was a new kind of
a racial tension in the country in the
wake of this this terrible event.
And this idea of black pride began to
And you would think that maybe for
somebody like James Brown this would be a
tough situation for him to be in, but on
the other hand, James Brown became one of
the great peacemakers of the end of the
In fact, the day after the assassination
of Martin Luther King, he was scheduled
to do a concert at the Boston Garden.
Now the city, the mayor and those thought
that maybe it's not a good idea to get a
bunch of young people together the day
after, you know, we got riots in other
cities, maybe we shouldn't do this.
So what they decided to do was they
decided to televise the concert for free.
So anybody who wanted to watch the James
Brown concert could watch it in the
Boston area, they didn't have to go down
to the Boston Garden.
So only a few thousand people actually

went down to the Boston Garden to see the

show, they got all the good seats right
in front.
But it was broadcast on television, and
that performance is, the reputation of it
is that it helped bring the Boston
community together, black and white
together, through James Brown's efforts.
And really, in many ways, sort of
quelling a riot in Boston and trying to
get people to think about understanding.
We're going to return to a discussion of
Motown and James Brown in part two of
this of this course when we get to the
music of black pop of the 1970's.
But in our next and final week we're
going to talk about the music in
psychedel...the music of psychedelia at
the end of the 1960's.
What happens when rock music goes