Saturday, May 26, 2012

BC2012: The Hardest Working Man by James Sullivan

I'm embarrassed to say that I never got into James Brown. By the time I was a teenager, Brown was like a caricature of his former self, easily dismissed by a suburban white kid. What's incredible is that in my late 20s, I went through a funk phase -- especially George Clinton/Parliament/Funkadelic -- and I still didn't get into Brown. I also saw this book several times at reasonable prices but passed it by.

Last month I found The Hardest Working Man in the clearance section at Half Price Books in Highland Park for $2, and I finally bought it. Conveniently, the store also had a CD of his 20 greatest hits so I could really immerse myself in the man's life and music.

The book is a mixture of Brown's life story and the tale of his concert in Boston the day after Martin Luther King was assassinated. Blacks in many American cities rioted, but Brown's concert, which city leaders decided to broadcast on television, is credited for keeping the situation calm in Boston. Naturally, Sullivan writes a lot about Brown's relationship to the civil rights movement, including the classic song "Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud".

Brown is legendary, and I liked the book. But then I put in the CD. Damn! Of course I knew some of the songs already, but holy shit, Brown just blew me away.

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