President George W. Bush had a lot of screw-ups during his eight-year term, but he did do a couple things right. One of them was proclaiming June as Black Music Month on May 31, 2002. June is here,* and to celebrate Black Music Month, I'll be featuring one of my favorite artists each day, sharing my first or most personal memory of them, and explain what their accomplishments are and why I felt they should make the Black Music Month Top 30 list. There will be some oldies, some newbies and some artists you may not know of yet.
Black Music Month Heat Factor "Why's this artist hot?": Skating is big in Chicago, and although I cannot roller skate well I know that putting on a James Brown song at a roller skating rink is going to make folks snap on the floor. James Brown samples always get major love from skaters and Chicago steppers. While interviewing Chicago producer Keezo Kane, I heard skaters gush over the "Ga Ga" song, which sampled the Godfather of Soul's voice. That's huge for a crowd of Generation X and Y who may have not been able to see him live or even know much about the man behind the music before he died on Christmas 2006. Although some of his singles didn't do as well as others on Billboard charts, the hip-hop community embraced him heavily, including his collaboration with Afrika Bambaataa on "Unity" and his 1986 hit "Living In America." Many people listen to James Brown's singing and say he is one of the earliest rappers during its creation in the late '60s, early '70s. His music continues to live on, and that's why he is the Godfather of Soul. Janelle Monae released a tribute to him with her 2010 single "Tightrope" and did his notorious dances in the music video. The King of Pop, Michael Jackson, said James Brown was influential in his career and surprised James Brown by bringing his cape out on the third annual BET Awards when he was receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award. Two icons on one stage with both admiring each other was huge.
First Memory, Most Personal Memory of the Artist: Like many soul artists. I grew up listening to James Brown courtesy of my parents' music selection. I could count on my father slow-dipping around the living room pointing his right index finger straight out when he heard a particularly good part of a song. My mother is a stepper so she was just as animated to hear James Brown, and when their friends came over it was one big "Soul Train" episode. But my favorite song by him is "I'm Black and I'm Proud" because it was being blasted around the same time as Public Enemy was gaining in popularity. I grew up during a time when African-American artists loved uplifting each other, not calling ourselves out of our names or belittling each other. And when I heard James Brown sing "It's a Man's. Man's. Man's World" followed by "but it would be nothing. nothing at all without a woman or a girl," I puffed my elementary school chest out proud to be a girl! I also remember many Chuck E. Cheese birthday parties with "I Feel Good" playing while we ate pizza.
Accomplishments from the Artist: He had up-and-down moments on the Billboard Charts, but in R&B, funk and rap homes, he was always the Godfather of Soul. "Living in America" was on the charts for 19 weeks. James Brown had Billboard Hot 100 songs in 1965, 1968, 1969, 1972 and 1986. He also had albums in the Billboard Top 200 in 1963, 1964 and 1974. His hits include "I Got the Feeling," "Sex Machine," "I Got You (I Feel Good)," "Make It Funky," "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," "The Payback," "Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)," "Get Up Offa That Thang" and "Please. Please, Please." "Live at the Apollo" hit number two on the charts in 1963, according to Billboard.com. "Out of Sight" made the Top 40 and "Got You (I Feel Good)" made it to number three after a lengthy battle with his previous record label, King.
Many songs like "Make It Funky," "Hot Pants," "Get on the Good Foot" and "The Payback" were popular on soul charts but not on pop charts. However, with songs like "Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)," "Don't Be a Drop-Out" and "Don't Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing (Open Up the Door I'll Get It Myself)," listeners realized that James Brown seemed to be more interested in making influential music. According to RollingStone.com, James Brown also discouraged violence after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination in 1968, spoke to youth about staying in school, performed for Vietnam troops, owned three black radio stations proving musicians can be entrepreneurs too and donated money to the youth. Through all his legal troubles. he remained a humanitarian and a musician.
Vice President Hubert Humphrey thanked James Brown for encouraging peace after King's assassination.
James Brown owned three black radio stations.
"The Cosby Show" fans will remember the Huxtables performance to James Brown's "I Got the Feeling."
* This entry was originally published on Associated Content in June of 2010. It has been republished with permission from Shamontiel. To find out who the other 29 artists were who were selected in 2010, visit this Pinterest board.
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