Granted, Brown victimized virtually everybody who entered the James Brown reality distortion field. But as his long-suffering second banana Bobby Byrdexplains, they all got something out of the exchange. Every musician stands a little straighter for being able to say he’s in James Brown’s band.
If capitalism is what made America great, James Brown was a great American.
Was Brown a great musician, though?
He was certainly a great bandleader. Indeed, much of Brown’s appeal for contemporary musicians is how he left audible [sic] on his records his role as a leader of men, a generator of masculine camaraderie. When Brown exhorts drummer Clyde Stubblefield just before one of the most sampled breaks in hip-hop history, “You don’t have to do no soloing, brother, just keep what you got … Don’t turn it loose, ’cause it’s a mother,” you can sense they would have put up with anything to play for James Brown, even his fines for scuffed shoes.
Or almost anything.
Like I said: