Listening to James Brown and His Followers


James Brown: Live at the Apollo (Polydor)

JB in Harlem, 1962: Rock music’s greatest live recording.

James Brown: Live at the Apollo, Vol. 2 (Polydor)

Back in Harlem four years later, the music of James Brown has undergone a radical transformation: from Southern R&B and soul to hard-driving funk.

James Brown: Revolution of the Mind (Polydor)

Once again at the Apollo, here is Brown in 1974, unconstrained by the conventions of the 1960s. Sex Machine is a grooving riot, but it’s not the sexiest thing on this recording: get a load of those basslines.

James Brown: The Payback (Polydor)

“You might know karate, but I know ka-razor … “

James Brown: Hell (Polydor)

Brown slows down for some grinding, post-funk soul and blues, including a surreal version of Stormy Monday.

James Brown: In a Jungle Groove (Polydor)

Want to hear one of the origins of hip-hop? Drop the needle on “Funky Drummer”.

James Brown: 50th Anniversary Anthology (Polydor)

You can’t do justice to JB on a single collection, even if it contains 50 songs. But this one comes close. I’ve been listening to it all week and have come to the conclusion the breadth of Brown’s music is unmatched in rock music. Perhaps only Miles mastered as many styles of music as Brown. At one time, JB rocked harder than Little Richard.

Miles Davis: On the Corner (Columbia)

From Miles’s Autobiography: “It was with Sly Stone and James Brown in mind that I went into the studio in June 1972 to record “On the Corner.” During that time, everyone was dressing kind of “out street,” you know, platform shoes that were yellow, and electric yellow at that; handkerchiefs around the neck, headbands, rawhide vests and so on. Black women were wearing them real tight dresses that had their big butts sticking way out in the back. Everyone was listening to Sly and James Brown and trying at the same time to be cool like me. I was my own model, with a little bit of Sly and James Brown and the Last Poets.”

Funkadelic: America Eats Its Young (Westbound)

In 1971, Brown fired his bass-player Bootsie Collins, after Collins freaked out on stage during a bad LSD trip. Collins landed in Detroit where he hooked up with George Clinton and Funkadelic. Collins’ bass-lines are in many ways the sound of post-Brown funk, as well as disco, heavy metal, grunge and hip hop. Does it get any weirder or funkier than “I Call My Baby Pussycat” or “Miss Lucifer’s Groove”?

Cameo: Cameosis (Mercury)

For better or worse, funk led to disco. In a particularly low period, Brown anointed himself “the Original Disco Man.” I love black dance music of almost every kind, but disco left me cold. For me, Cameo is as warm as it got.

Prince: Love/Sexy (Warner Brothers)

When I first heard Prince in 1980, I thought rock still had a future. He was equal parts Sly Stone and James Brown, with an occasional Hendrix riff thrown in to rattle the cage. LoveSexy, despised by many, is as close to a true evolution of the JB sound as you’re likely to get. GenderBender funk.

Geto Boys: We Can’t Be Stopped (Asylum)

A few minutes after James Brown died, Snoop Dogg announced that Brown’s legacy would live on through Snoop’s own music. There’s no question that the hip-hop generation owes much to Brown, but, frankly, I don’t hear much of Brown’s music in West Coast rap. But it punctuates the sound of the Geto Boys and other southern hip hop groups. Not much music these days sounds as dangerous as Brown’s music from the late 60s and early 70s. The Geto Boys–hated by the cops, targeted by Tipper and dropped by David Geffen–come close.

JEFFREY ST. CLAIR’s music writings (as well as CPers Ron Jacobs, David Vest and Daniel Wolff) can be found in Serpents in the Garden. He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net.



More articles by:

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Bernie and the Sandernistas: Field Notes From a Failed Revolution. He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net or on Twitter  @JSCCounterPunch

Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
What to Do at the End of the World? Interview with Climate Crisis Activist, Kevin Hester
Kevin Proescholdt
Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke Attacks America’s Wilderness
Franklin Lamb
Syrian War Crimes Tribunals Around the Corner
Beth Porter
Clean Energy is Calling. Will Your Phone Company Answer?
George Ochenski
Zinke on the Hot Seat Again and Again
Lance Olsen
Somebody’s Going to Extremes
Robert Koehler
Breaking the Ice
Pepe Escobar
The Myth of a Neo-Imperial China
Graham Peebles
Time for Political Change and Unity in Ethiopia
Terry Simons
10 American Myths “Refutiated”*
Thomas Knapp
Some Questions from the Edge of Immortality
Louis Proyect
The 2018 Socially Relevant Film Festival
David Yearsley
Keaton’s “The General” and the Pernicious Myths of the Heroic South