12/8/09 - james brown

In today's excerpt - Paul Shaffer musical showman par excellence whose career has included long stints as musical director with David Letterman and Saturday Night Live delivers an encomium to his favorite musician the King of them all the Godfather of Soul—James Brown:

"The one artist that woke me up and got me going—and, I must add, has kept me going throughout my life—was the Godfather of Soul, Mr. James Brown. James electrified me, as he electrified the world, beginning in my precollege years. I loved listening to the time-honored introduction rendered by Danny Ray, James Brown's formidable master of ceremonies.

" 'Now ladies and gentlemen, it is Star Time. Are you ready for Star Time? Thank you and thank you kindly. It is indeed a great pleasure to present to you at this particular time the artist nationally and internationally known as the hardest-working man in show business. ...

" 'Yes he'll make your bladder splatter, he'll make your knees freeze and your liver quiver. The star of the show, Mr. Please Please himself, soul brother number one, Mr. Dynamite the man with the crown ... James Brown and the Famous Flames.'

"Musicologists hail the sublime musical contributions of Mozart, Monteverdi, Beethoven, and Bach. Here in America we celebrate Louis Armstrong, Aaron Copland, Duke Ellington and Charles Ives. The relative merits of musical geniuses are impossible to calculate. I won't try. I will only say that for my money, James Brown is ...  'King of them all, y'all.'

"It's the singing, yes: the pitch-perfect screams that penetrate your heart and freeze your blood. It's the dancing, of course: the spins, the splits, the grace, and the grit. It's the band: tighter and righter than any orchestra in the proud history of soul. It's the songs: the social messages, the sexual subtexts, the self-assertive anthems of a free black man in a white world. It's everything. James Brown is everything I love in music. ...

"[He was] the most ferocious barbarian of all ... and [in a typical] performance ... made time grind to a halt and the world stop turning on its axis. Dogs stopped chasing cats. Cats stopped chasing birds. Lions lay down with lambs. Babies ceased crying. Women stopped weeping. ...

"At the end of a song, a cape was placed on James's back. I sat in wonder. Why the cape? What were they doing? James had fallen to his knees, and perhaps the purpose of the cape was to prevent a chill after his red-hot performance. But as he started to leave the stage, he threw off the cape and returned to the mic, singing another stirring chorus. ...The routine continued. He fell to his knees; a new cape was placed; then he got up and threw it off only to return to the mic. Again! And again! He couldn't stop himself. He couldn't stop returning to plead to his woman 'Don't Go.' He was truly out of sight."


Paul Shaffer


We'll Be Here For The Rest of Our Lives: A Swingin' Showbiz Saga


First Anchor Books Edition


Copyright 2009 Paul Shaffer Enterprises, Inc


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