So, the other half of Christmas was the 5 Liberty bash, which was once again off the hood. Never mind the generous loot that befell certain perceptive, lucky, and quick-witted friends of yours. The company was sublime and kept me there until sometime after three-thirty. Somehow, I just wasn't ready to go to bed.
Blame Sergio Leone for keeping me up and delivering unto you the first wires eulogy for The Godfather of Soul, James Brown. Yes, fellow trippers, James Brown died on Christmas Day, 2006. There's some incredible wave of synchronicity in that one. While I'm saddened that there's one less in the name of love, there's a whole lotta' legacy here. Like bravery.
There was a terrible shudder in 1968. Gunfire. Again. To many, the dream was on the ropes, uncertain of a comeback. Again, it took just one to lead the many. That man was James Brown. He toured the entire country, begging both sides to not let it all fall apart. He had that critical crossover appeal that could bring both blacks and whites to the Apollo so that everyone absorbed the spiritual. Man, if it wasn't for this cat, the early seventies would have been a complete wash. A whitewash, that is. Perhaps over and above his music, this was James Brown's most defining moment.
His early instrumentals as a band leader are far more brilliant than something like "Sex Machine," though it's really tough to ditch on any part of Brown's repertoire. Those instrumentals, though, rely far more on musical brilliance than barking and snarling about Papa's Brand New Bag. Taut sensuality drips from the horn sections and the guitars rip you on down the line for whatever the Godfather has in store for you up sleeve number two. Then again, those tracks weren't the kind of things that could pack the dance floor of Nicky's in the Haight on an All Funk Saturday night.
The man's legacy was in every single sweaty night I spent out there dipping and grinding and swaying and groping and kissing and smoking we did in that joint for the first two years I was here. There was nothing else like it. Race didn't fucking matter at all and there was no tension, theft, or other stupid shit that you'd associate with even a honky haven like The Matrix or Blondie's. The place was always jam-packed so that the dance floor was more about the slitherings of super-soaked and salty frottage with whomever looked like they had the almighty funk-soul-fuck-you-through-Monday attitude. Largely powered by James Brown, of course.
I know what you're thinking: the PCP and shotgun and car chase across state lines--that ugly culmination of drugs, pressure, guilt, nightmares, and smacking his whacked-out wife around. Note to population: HE WAS THE FUCKING GODFATHER OF SOUL, BITCH! Not everybody's Bono and not even Bono lived through the kind of shit that James-Fucking-Brown endured again, again, again, again, again, and still yet again. Nobody's perfect, people. Look to yourselves and ask what you'd really ask of someone like James Brown. When one of you can claim some level of ultimate strength and perfection, gimme a call and we'll go to James' grave together. I'm *positive* he'd like to meet you.
So, James, the truth is that Sergio Leone kept me up and has me writing these words about you. Your presence within me of the Reverend Cleophus still rises up inside me every time I hear the jingle-jangle of a thousand lost souls (guaranteed, at the very least, whenever I read the Wall Street Journal). I'm sitting here watching this beautiful, sadistic romp through the realities of a rise and fall in America, I feel you passing through, man. Sergio Fucking Leone, James. No Eastwood, no Van Cleef. But Morricone made the cut, James and I know you dig that. Not to mention all the hot fucking chicks.
So rave on out there, James. Whatever's in store for you on the other side, the afterlife has us all beaten today because you're over there and we're still slugging it out here. Say hello to all the other dreams for us. Let them know that we're still living them, too. Because we feel good. We knew that we would. So good. Because we'd all got you.