Tuesday, 12 February 2019
It's A New Day
Later on on Saturday night I started channel surfing and found the second half of a film about James Brown which included this clip of James and his band in 1969, live on the TV, doing I Don't Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing...
It's powerful stuff, the band drilled to within an inch of their lives, everyone dependent on James' direction, a soul band transformed into a rhythmic machine, everything concentrated on The One. Brown's influence at this point among the black community was such that following nights of rioting he went to the ghetto and told the young men to stop- and they did. His music had empowered the audience- Say It Loud, I'm Black And Proud- and in the late 60s he went further than anyone else, from soul to funk, stronger, deeper and blacker.
I Don't Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing is about aspiration and empowerment, educating yourself, self reliance, willpower. James couldn't understand why if he'd dragged himself up and out of poverty by sheer hard work and determination, everybody else couldn't do the same. Not everybody else had his talent, a point he might have missed. The Nixon Presidency was telling the nation that this was the way out of the ghetto, aspiration not welfare. It's a message Reagan and Thatcher would love and implement in policy a decade later (and still very much alive today). Brown would endorse Nixon in 1972 and later Reagan too. So I Don't Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing works both ways, a 1969 bolt of self-determination with a side order of Reaganite and Thatcherite 'get on your bike' message.
In 1986 a double album compilation of James Brown songs from the 1969 to 1972 period came out titled In The Jungle Groove. The songs on it were the ones that hip hop had sent centre stage again, the drums especially, and Clyde Stubblefield's drums even moreso. It's an absolutely essential compilation, nine hits of super funk, including The Funky Drummer, Give It Up Or Turn It Loose, Hot Pants, Soul Power, Talkin' Loud And Sayin' Nothing. The period the album covers includes the moment in 1970 when the band mutinied in a dispute over pay. James called their bluff, losing Fred Wesley, Maceo and Melvin Parker but at the last minute keeping Bobby Byrd and gaining Bootsy and Phelps Collins. This band went into the studio not long after their first live performance together and recorded Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine. In just two takes.
In The Jungle Groove is well worth tracking down. I think it was reissued in the early 2000s. This song opens it and, you probably don't need me to tell you, is unbelievably funky.
It's A New Day