Friday, December 29, 2006

SOUL DEITY: JB LIVES ON


It's not surprising to me that so many folks have lined Harlem streets to mourn the death of James Brown. Though the media seems to be predictably glossing over the specifics of his historic contributions, JB was no less important than The Beatles or Bob Dylan in shaping the direction of popular music after World War II. Akin to musical deity, JB's dazzling showmanship and ultra-sophisticated musicianship elevated soul and created the template for funk, which in turn became the backbone for hip-hop. Without JB, there'd be no Michael Jackson, no Fela Kuti, no Public Enemy, no D'Angelo, no Justin Timberlake, no Usher, no Timbaland and no Dr. Dre....the list goes on, and even to state it as such is understating his influence. Though he hadn't released any significant new music in many years, his output alone in the 60s and the 70s - and its impact on music, dance, film, visual art and beyond - was legendary.
It's been a difficult couple of years for r&b, with the passing of Ruth Brown, who helped created the template for women in rock 'n roll, Gerald Levert, and others.