12.25.2008

James Brown's Yortsayt

Today is James Brown's second yortsayt. The graphic accompanying this little blog, which will appear on the next cover of Jewish Currents to celebrate Obama's victory, includes James Brown as one of the 36 lamed vovniks (righteous souls) of African-American life, all crowned with Statue of Liberty tiaras. (Click on it to enlarge.) I could have easily come up with 36 others.

I saw James Brown when I was 18 years old and had hitchhiked to Penn State University to visit my girlfriend. During the afternoon, she and I spent long minutes kissing in the middle of a twenty- foot-long tunnel of lilac bushes. After forty years, still haven't gotten the scent and the thrill out of my mind. Then, at night, came James Brown. A similar thrill, only it lasted two hours!

I never had the guts to go see him at the Apollo Theater, fool that I am. That would have been the place to hear him sing, in call-and-response with the crowd:

Say it loud: I'm black and I'm proud!
Say it loud: I'm black and I'm proud!

Some people say we've got a lot of malice
Some say it’s a lot of nerve
But I say we won't quit moving until we get what we deserve
We have been bucked and we have been scorned
We have been treated bad, talked about as just bones
But just as it takes two eyes to make a pair, ha!
Brother we can’t quit until we get our share

Say it loud: I'm black and I'm proud!
Say it loud: I'm black and I'm proud!
One more time!
Say it loud: I'm black and I'm proud!

I worked on jobs with my feet and my hand
But all the work I did was for the other man
Now we demand a chance to do things for ourselves
We're tired of beatin' our head against the wall
And workin' for someone else

Say it loud: I'm black and I'm proud
Say it loud: I'm black and I'm proud
Say it loud: I'm black and I'm proud
Say it loud: I'm black and I'm proud

We're people, we're just like the birds and the bees
We'd rather die on our feet
Than be livin' on our knees

Say it loud: I'm black and I'm proud
Say it loud: I'm black and I'm proud
Say it loud: I'm black and I'm proud
Say it loud: I'm black and I'm proud


Great lyrics, no. Explosive lyrics, oh yes! Add in the rhythms and the shouting and you've got one hell of a statement.

James Brown was the most African of African-American music makers, and an extraordinary singer. There was and is nobody who could scream more pleasingly than Mr. James Brown. Often, when I'm in a really good mood, I'll suddenly quote the opening to "Make It Funky, Part 1":

"What you gonna play now?"

"Bobby, I don't know — but what's'n ever I play, it's got to be funky."

Funky Christmas, everybody!

2 Comments:

Blogger Lao Qiao said...

It is interesting that James Brown and Harold Pinter both died on Christmas.

Actually, it's not interesting at all.

3:38 PM  
Anonymous vicky said...

I got a nice Lebron jersey from sport-jerseys.biz.

9:30 PM  

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