I may be late with the news but I still have to mention the fact that the Godfather of Soul, the Minister of Super Heavy Funk, one of the last great Masters of Modern Music – James Brown – has died. It’s difficult to know where to start. The man was a genius, an innovator and one of the most influential figures in popular music ever to hit the scene. His loss is a tragedy. Not because we won’t have his music anymore (his creative genius had waned during the end of his life) but because we won’t have his like anymore. James Brown the man was a walking, talking engine of energy, a bubbling cauldron of excitement.
Let’s look at the man first of all. His dancing, for example, has influenced the very greatest – Prince and Michael Jackson to name but two. His political messages must surely be seen as some of the most hard-hitting in America and have to be viewed in context. He was a heavyweight punching with the likes of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Muhammed Ali. The man was most certainly larger, much larger than life.
And his music? The man invented funk. He adored gospel, nurtured R&B and his breaks have been sampled in some of the most influential Hip-Hop tracks around. His chanting vocal style is said to have been pre-rap Rap. The list goes on. He is said to be the most sampled artists ever and Funky Drummer the most sampled song in the world. The man and his music quite literally changed the face of world music. He penetrated Afro-American culture, its music and its values; his music took the rhythmic, chanting style from Africa and then gave it back to the Mother Land influencing hundreds of artists across Africa.
His music was completely universal. He is revered by black artists, worshipped by rappers, adored by pop music lovers. One of the last of the great generation of music makers has left us. His death is most certainly our great, great loss.