Monday, December 25, 2006
say it loud:
James Brown is dead. I'd like to think that a more thoughtful post could follow these first impressions, but perhaps not.

A debate rages about whether James Brown ended up doing more harm than good to soul music. That's a testament to his enormous capacity for political and personal self-destruction. For the man who announced, transcendently, that he was black and proud to shill for Nixon was unthinkable. Similarly, his drug, alcohol and women abuse infused the ugliest personal demons into a political context, thanks to the overwhelming political and cultural fury contained within his music. This were serious infractions. The way Brown tarnished his platform gave excuses for the bigots who are too happy to conflate black liberation with marauding license.

But the frisson that travels up your back when you hear Say it loud -- I'm black and I'm proud! during a time when cities burn rather than recognize that sentiment... nothing could be more electric, and for that electric moment every promise of chanting down Babylon is fulfilled. When L.L. announces that he's got the Funky Drummer drumming, it's irrefutable testimony to the power of Brown's music to achieve true timelessness -- not as an artifact worthy of half-hearted respect, but an enduring standard of style, relevance and taste. No matter how many times the man pimped "I Feel Good," there's still the danger and possibility of Black Caesar. He paid the cost to be the boss. RIP.
--Spencer Ackerman