BETWEEN THE LINER NOTES
Inside the 'Soul' of James Brown
By Scott Ross
The 700 Club
I remember seeing the “Godfather of Soul” perform in NYC at the old Paramount theatre on Broadway and his stage presence was dynamic bringing down the house. Certainly his influence on today’s rap and rollers is far-reaching. Even his exit on Christmas day was consistent with the dramatic life he led.
For Brown it wasn’t black or white; his music transcended color. When I talked to him a number of years ago James Brown unashamedly credited God for his musical gifts.
Scott Ross: Life’s been an interesting journey for you, hasn’t it?
James Brown: For any human being… I’m glad God has enlightened me as I go. I’ve been one chosen by God to go throughout the world. Of the well-known top five men in the world, I am somewhere in that number. Eighty percent of music today has the style of James Brown, not Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, Brahms…
Ross: You put yourself in the same category?
Brown: No, whatever category God puts me in. They’re musical geniuses. Thank God for people who can use their influence for the betterment of society and humanity, and that’s what I’m about. I’ve never forgotten where I came from or what I’ve come from.
Ross: How long has that experience been a reality of your life?
Brown: [It was a] reality since I was born but practicing and preaching is important. I realize my popularity is from God… I pray three and four times a day.
Ross: Was there a point when you felt a greater need for the Lord than previously?
Brown: When I was separated from my second marriage, I felt then I should get closer to God because I knew that God was my friend. I went through five to six and half years of thinking.
Ross: When did you first start to sing?
Brown: I first started dancing. I sang and preached as a little boy. In 1939, my father only made four dollars a week. He couldn’t pay the rent. We had 22 people living at home. We went out and tap danced for the soldiers, and we paid the rent.
Ross: What brought you into the performing arena?
Brown: Hunger. I came from a broken home – never saw my family pray together. I grew up in a bad area and carved my way out. I wanted to be something other than what I saw around me.
Ross: Was there a point at which something broke to get you out?
Brown: At the age of 16, I was a juvenile delinquent in reform school, but God made me successful. That’s why I help so many children today. I tell them to stay in school. I give them a spiritual overtone, and I try to be a role model for them. Let them know there’s hope. After the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, I was the only one able to stop the riots. God gave me that influence. Everybody loves James Brown.
Ross: As a 16-year-old juvenile delinquent, what happened to get you into the music world?
Brown: I was popular. I think the people put me in prison to raise me. It was the best thing that happened to me. It wasn’t a prison but a training institute. I have everything to thank this country for.
Ross: Did you start to sing in the correctional institute?
Brown: They let me play the piano there. I sang gospel. The warden let us perform, and we didn’t run away. I’m very proud of gospel. God smiled on me.
Ross: When was your big break with a record hit?
Brown: In 1956, “Please Please Please” with gospel overtones. James Brown can’t sing rhythm and blues. God showed me how to sing soul to make people feel good. I play music to excite people, get them involved and make them happy.
Ross: When asked to do a scene in The Blues Brothers, there was something intended to be sacrilegious. Did you change that?
Brown: I made them take a lot of words out. Some things were said about Jesus Christ that I didn’t agree with.
Ross: What about your future?
Brown: I’m going to continue doing good for people. [There are] a lot of ministries are out there. Every ministry has its won way of touching people and doing good – even ministries a lot of people don’t approve of. God won’t allow a man to reach that many people if he’s not good. In my concerts, I like to have gospel, country… good songs of life and humanity.
James Brown died on December 25, 2006, of congestive heart failure in Atlanta. He was 73 years old.
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