December 26, 2006, - 3:04 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
I was never a fan of James Brown (I do like the CBS football announcer, James Brown–who is still alive–though) or the bizarre way he lived his private life . . . which all too often became public.
But no-one can deny Brown’s talent and the things he spawned, not just in R&B, but also in rock. Eddie Murphy’s character in the just-released box-office hit, “Dreamgirls,” appears to be based on James Brown. (And, ironically, he wrote lyrics against Murphy in one of his biggest hits–see below.)
When I was in college and visiting Washington, DC, a friend invited me to a James Brown concert. Even though that is really not my kind of music, I was amazed. The stories about him losing 8-10 pounds per show have got to be true. I’ve never seen someone (other than Chuck Berry, whom I also saw that year) go on so long and have such infinite energy in a live concert. If my memory serves me correctly, Brown went on for more than three hours (way too long, actually). Concertgoers certainly got their money’s worth.
Now that James Brown is gone, it’s a little weird to note that in 1991, there was that dance club hit by Dutch group L.A. Style, “James Brown is Dead,” based on a fake story that a newscaster prematurely announced he was dead (never happened). Now, that song seems vile.
Ironically, one of his biggest hits, “Living in America,” came well after his heyday, in Rocky IV. The song was played on the radio so much, it drove me nuts. And looking at the lyrics now, you have to ask, “Huh?” Is it patriotic or is it just something scatterbrained he wrote while on something? Hard to tell, and maybe that’s the genius of it:
Living in America
By James Brown
Yeah, uh! Get up, now! Ow! Knock out this!
Super highways, coast to coast, easy to get anywhere
On the transcontinental overload, just slide behind the wheel
How does it feel
When there’s no destination – that’s too far
And somewhere on the way, you might find out who you are
Living in America – eye to eye, station to station
Living in America – hand to hand, across the nation
Living in America – got to have a celebration
Rock my soul
Smokestack, fatback, many miles of railroad track
All night radio, keep on runnin’ through your rock ‘n’ roll soul
All night diners keep you awake, hey, on black coffee and a hard roll
You might have to walk the fine line, you might take the hard line
But everybody’s working overtime
I live in America, help me out, but I live in America, wait a minute
You might not be looking for the promised land, but you might find it anyway
Under one of those old familiar names
Like New Orleans (New Orleans), Detroit City (Detroit City), Dallas (Dallas)
Pittsburg P.A. (Pittsburg P.A.), New York City (New York City)
Kansas City (Kansas City), Atlanta (Atlanta), Chicago and L.A.
Living in America – hit me – living in America – yeah, I walk in and out
Living in America
I live in America – state lines, gonna make the prime, that
I live in America – hey, I know what it means, I
Living in America – Eddie Murphy, eat your heart out
Living in America – hit me, I said now, eye to eye, station to station
Living in America – so nice, with your bare self
Living in America – I feel good!
James Brown, Godfather of Soul, Rest in Peace.
Tags: America, Atlanta, CBS, Chicago, Chuck Berry, Dallas, DC, Detroit City, Dreamgirls, Eddie Murphy, football announcer, infinite energy, James Brown, James Brown By Debbie Schlussel, Kansas City, L.A. Style, Living in America, New Orleans, New York City, newscaster, Washington