Star-Bulletin Features

Monday, December 31, 2001

James Brown is newly wed and still going strong after 50 years.

James Brown brings intense
music style to isles
to open New Year

By John Berger

He's been known for almost 40 years as "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business," but James Brown may be working even harder than usual these days. A spokesperson for the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa, where Brown will be bringing in 2002 with a concert in the Coral Ballroom tonight, reports that Brown -- also known as "Soul Brother No. 1" and "The Godfather of Soul" -- returns to Hawaii as a newlywed.

Brown, who celebrated his 68th (or 73rd, depending on whom you talk to) birthday in May, has been an American music legend for nearly 50 years. The American pop market discovered Brown in the mid-60s when he scored three Top 10 hits with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag (Part 1)," "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and "It's A Man's Man's Man's World," but he was a power on the R&B charts for almost a decade before that.

Brown had already been in the music business a few years when he recorded a demo of his original signature song, "Please Please Please," at a Georgia radio station in 1955.

The demo got him a deal with the Cincinnati-based King/Federal label less than two months later. Brown and his band re-recorded the song for King/Federal, and it sold more than a million copies -- huge sales for an African-American artist at a time when white acts made a living out of recording covers of R&B artists' hits for play on pop stations that didn't play "race" records.

No pop artist has ever successfully "covered" any of Brown's recordings. Few ever came close to his intensity on stage. Brown would launch himself into "Please Please Please" and work the song until he collapsed.


New Year's Eve concert
Where: Hilton Hawaiian Village Coral Ballroom
When: 9 p.m. today
Tickets: $100 to $150 reserved, $85 general; New Year dinner and room packages available
Call: 949-4321

His bandleader would drape a cape over his shoulders and help him up almost all the way off stage -- at which point Brown would throw off the cape, rush back to center stage, grab the microphone and continue singing until he collapsed again.

It was soul music gospel revival at its best. Some saw it as Brown's symbolic re-enactment of the Resurrection.

Brown was an innovator when it came to incorporating a string section in hard-edged R&B music. He reworked pop classics like "Prisoner of Love" as straight soul music and remained true to his bluesy "holler" vocal style.

His epic 1963 double album, "Live at the Apollo," was considered at its time an unprecedented gamble for a black artist even by his own label. It was the first James Brown album to make the Billboard pop album chart, peaked at No. 2 and remains one of the greatest live concert albums ever recorded. His musical arrangements and work as a musician have been the bedrock of rap and hip-hop from the emergence of those genres in the '80s.

From songs of love and loss to political statements and primal dance grooves, Brown has done it all and always as an innovator. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 and is one of those among the many so honored who unquestionably deserves to be there. He received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 1992.

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