James Brown - Make It Funky (Part 2) (Polydor 2-14088)
Make It Funky (Part 2)
People, it was deep.
By the time I got uptown at about 10:30 yesterday morning, the lines had already stretched around the corners of 125th Street, up Frederick Douglas and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevards. By noon, somebody said that the lines went all the way up to 132nd Street. I haven't heard an official count as yet, but there were literally thousands upon thousands of people lined up in the streets to pay tribute to the Godfather.
The wonderful folks I met there in the line (like guitarist Ralph Ladson, promoter M. Morton Hall, and my brothers Thorn and Terry) had all been there 'back in the day', and it was an absolute pleasure listening to their stories. There's something about standing around outside in the cold (with no bathroom) for five hours that brings people closer together, let me tell ya.
By the time the horse drawn caisson arrived around 2 pm, it seemed as if we had known each other all our lives. These members of the 'soul generation' remembered along with me those dark days after Doctor King was shot, and the lasting power of James Brown's message - Say It Loud, I'm Black And I'm Proud! One thing we all shared was our love of JB's unstoppable infectious groove thang that continues to move us deep down inside.
As we finally entered the theater around 3 o'clock, a hushed reverence came over all of us as we caught a glimpse of the stage. Live At The Apollo was playing on the sound system as we walked down the aisle. As somebody reached out to help me up the steps, James had just started singing I'll Go Crazy. To stand there, in that place, on that stage with the body of James Brown laid out before me was something I can't even begin to describe. It was profound my friends, and I will never, ever forget that moment.
As people filtered back out on to the streets, a crowd began to gather in front of Bobby's Happy House, Bobby Robinson's legendary record store that has been a Harlem landmark for over sixty years. Songs like Try Me and Please, Please, Please blared from the outdoor speakers, and people nodded in appreciation. As things got a bit funkier with songs like Get Up (I Feel Like Being Like A Sex Machine), and The Payback, the whole street started movin' and groovin'.
The biggest hit of the evening though, by far, was our current selection. As circles of people gathered around chanting Make It Funky, everybody from little kids to old men got the feelin' and were just dancing in the streets, doing their best James Brown. People were doing splits, throwing off their jackets like sequined capes, doing The Popcorn and The Mashed Potatoes. It was truly amazing. The man that was standing next to me in front of Bobby's had this to say:
"Now look at this, this is beautiful, man... when was the last time you saw something like this? This is the way things are supposed to be. I wish all the politicians could come and see it... we don't need no laws, just the love that's in the music. I'll tell ya, Bush ain't no president, James Brown's my president, man... and you know what? You think James Brown is dead? He ain't dead, just look around you!"
He was right, of course, and as I eventually drifted away into the Harlem night, I began to realize just what a special day it had been.
As the man himself once said:
"JAMES BROWN is a concept, a vibration, a dance. It's not me, the man. JAMES BROWN is a freedom I created for humanity."
It will live forever.