"Jump back, baby, jump back. James Brown is gonna do his thing ..." (photo: Soul Portrait)
I talked about driving home from a special Father’s Day night at the Girl’s school, and randomly singing a bit of James Brown’s “I Got the Feelin’”. Well, that prompted me to introduce the Girl to the essential greatest hits collection (not too many essential greatest hits collections out there, but this is one …) James Brown 20 All-Time Greatest Hits.
She took to it – I mean really took to it. “I’ve Got the Feelin’” was an easy in. But, “Mother Popcorn”, “Give It Up, Turn It Loose”, “Make It Funky”, “The Payback”, “Superbad”, and (my favourite where the Girl is concerned) “Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud)”, are also favourites. There is nothing quite so magical as the classic call-and-response structure on that last one, where your five year old yells “I’m black and I’m proud!” on cue from her carseat.
I suppose there is something of a cultural anomaly happening with all of that, given that, for all intents and purposes accepting that we’re all from Africa, we’re not actually black. But, I think what she’s picking up on, beyond the primal, celebratory, and intrinsically particpatory nature of funk music in general, is how empowering that message actually is, black or not. It’s joyful.
This has gone beyond simple appreciation for the music, and the constant requests to have it played in the car as we travel (OK by me!). She’s started to write her own James-inspired jams. The most notable of course is her signature “Gonna Get Some!”, which is a little ditty she made up one day, with little more words than that, true to the tradition. It makes me laugh. It is very well observed. I’m waiting for her to call out “Maceo! blow your horn!” halfway through it.
Also, her own crafted response to “Hot Pants” has been to inquire, “What about cold pants?”. Maybe she’ll write another one that is temperature-inclusive.
It completely makes sense that this stuff resonates with her. James Brown’s music is all about groove. It has very accessible lyrical themes. It’s pretty easy to sing along to.
I haven’t quite worked up the nerve to expose her to “Sex Machine”…