“Get On Up” is the new biopic out on James Brown. David Remnick of the The New Yorker calls it “the second-best film ever made about James Brown.”

But rather than watch a good impersonations, how about seeing the real thing? The following James Brown video has been called the “most thrilling, compressed, erotic, explosive form, just eighteen minutes long, and is also arguably the most electrifying performance in the history of postwar American music.”

Quite a claim. Check it out:

Source: The New Yorker

Here’s Remnick to explain:

“Brown, who had played the Chitlin Circuit for years, was genuinely incensed that the producers would put him on before pallid amateurs (in his mind) like the Stones. His performance, he later admitted, was a cutting contest that he refused to lose. As Brown puts it in his memoir, “James Brown: The Godfather of Soul,” “We did a bunch of songs, nonstop, like always. . . . I don’t think I ever danced so hard in my life, and I don’t think they’d ever seen a man move that fast.” It was a four-song set: the staccato blues number “Out of Sight”; an astonishing inside-out revival of “Prisoner of Love,” which had been recorded by smoothies like Billy Eckstine and Perry Como; the dramatic centerpiece “Please, Please, Please”; and the closer, “Night Train,” which the boxer Sonny Liston would play to get himself going in the gym…

This was the first time that Brown, while singing “Please, Please, Please,” pulled out his “cape act,” in which, in the midst of his own self-induced hysteria, his fit of longing and desire, he drops to his knees, seemingly unable to go on any longer, at the point of collapse, or worse. His backup singers, the Flames, move near, tenderly, as if to revive him, and an offstage aide, Danny Ray, comes on, draping a cape over the great man’s shoulders. Over and over again, Brown recovers, throws off the cape, defies his near-death collapse, goes back into the song, back into the dance, this absolute abandonment to passion.

Its no wonder that Jagger and Richards, watching from twenty feet away, grew nervous over the thought of following the hardest working man in show business..

James Brown, Godfather of Soul: RIP (December 25th, 2006)

On Film: The Invention of the Moonwalk (April 26th, 2014)

See also:
“Mr. Brown, On the road with His Bad Self” New Yorker, July 2002

Category: Friday Night Jazz, Music, Weekend

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

6 Responses to “Friday Night Soul: James Brown in Eighteen Minutes”

  1. [...] tip to Barry Ritholtz on this one. There’s a new movie, Get on Up about James Brown, but why watch impersonators when [...]

  2. NURREDIN says:

    Please note that there is no “Funk” in this performance.Brown was pure R&B until he appropriated the sound of Arlester Christian (Dyke and The Blazers) and his “Funky Broadway” style. Notice how he hadn’t yet gone to the two drummer,Fender Bass,two Gibson ES335,six man horn section format that Christian started. Had Christian not been murdered in Phoenix, Brown wouldn’t have been known as the “Godfather of Soul”.Like Pablo Picasso said,”Good artists copy,great artists steal”.

  3. richardsp says:

    Barry… I don’t always agree with your politics, nor your economic analysis… but I do love these type of articles and I really, REALLY, appreciate you finding them for me.

    Thank you very much!

  4. Joe says:

    Ahh Yes, The Tami Show…
    For years this movie was unavailable, I believe due to the inability to get releases from the Beach Boys. There were bootlegs frankensteined together with another concert shown at Midnight Cinemas for years.This brings back memories of the era when rock music was part of top 40, and one of the niche genres of Popular Music.
    For years I wondered what the “I Gotcha” that wasn’t part of the song that I heard in one of James Brown’s live performance released as a single was about. His band was that tight because they were fined for mistakes. The man is gone but his influence lingers.
    Song starts at 2:00 in.

  5. Marc P says:

    Barry, you have a point when you write “Its no wonder that Jagger and Richards, watching from twenty feet away, grew nervous over the thought of following the hardest working man in show business…”

    But consider that maybe Jagger and Richards thought, “hey, this guy is on to something…”