James Brown, R.I.P.

The Godfather of Soul, James Joseph Brown, Jr., died overnight. He was 73 years young. Brown was initially hospitalized with pneumonia this weekend in Atlanta, and as recently as Sunday, his agent said he would be ready to perform at a scheduled concert the following Saturday. The cause of his death was uncertain.

James Brown performs inChina, February 2006, APJames Brown will be remembered as one of the greatest bandleaders, performers,and tastemakers in modern music. As the man himself once said: “Disco is James Brown, hip-hop is James Brown, rap is James Brown; you know what I’m saying?” Like Elvis, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Prince, redefined and influenced the role of the frontman with raw emotion and a frenetic stage presence.

Little Richard, Sam Cooke and Ray Charles and their gospel-cum-R&B stylings were notable influences on James Brown, who started performing in 1955 with the guitarist Bobby Byrd and The Famous Flames.

Brown made his name in the mid-60’s, with the classic funk-soul hits, including “I Got You (I Feel Good),” and “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.” James Brown in London, June 2006By the late ’60s and early ’70s, Brown struck a groove with his backup band, the JB’s, which included now-legendary musicians such as Bootsy Collins and Fred Wesley, recorded “Number One Soul Brother,” “Sex Machine,” “Funky Drummer,” and the social-rights-themed black power anthem, “Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud.” His brand of funk and swagger combined with an irresistible vibe produced a string of Billboard hits through the 60’s and early 70’s that helped build a bridge to funk, soul, disco, and modern R&B.

That “James Brown Sound” spread infectiously across the music spectrum, and directly influenced Miles Davis’ 1972 “On the Corner,” the music of the Jackson 5, The Rolling Stones, Sly & the Family Stone, Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions, Parliament, Etta James, Kool & the Gang, Cameo… and later, Outkast, the jazz/funk fusion sounds of Medeski, Martin, & Wood, Galactic, and Charlie Hunter, and today’s direct descendants of the Godfather, such as Breakestra, !!!, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings. The list goes on and on.

James Brown had run-ins with the law, drug problems and health issues in recent decades, but his death came suddenly and early. His Web site lists tour dates that were scheduled to begin December 27 in Waterbury, CT and included gigs through August 2007.

The most recent interview I can find was last week, with Hour Magazine, previewing Brown’s planned January Canadian tour. Read it here. Read on for more intriguing interviews, etc…
Listen to JB’s “Christmas in Heaven” (MP3).

Have yourself a Soulful Christmas.

Continue reading “James Brown, R.I.P.”

Airport ID Secret Law Redux

NPR’s Martin Kaste did an excellent piece on the ridiculous SSI (sensitive security information) that is the law requiring one show ID at an airport. Although he doesn’t mention John Gilmore, plaintiff in the case awaiting grant of certiori at Supreme Court by name, he thoroughly explains why this secret law is such a farce.

For my piece on Gilmore’s case, go to Annenberg Radio News and scroll down.

Where Do They Go from Guantanamo?

In an effort to build a case for realistic hindsight, it’s high time to research the post- (if not pre-) 9/11 paths of current, former (and future?) Guantanamo Bay detainees in the “War on Terror.”

The AP sets an intriguing foundation for research/interrogation into the what/why with this report regarding the status of the 360 or so men released from detention since the January 2002 opening of Camp X-Ray @ Gitmo:

Once the detainees arrived in other countries, 205 of the 245 were either freed without being charged or were cleared of charges related to their detention at Guantanamo. Forty either stand charged with crimes or continue to be detained.

The WaPo’s A01 leads with compelling CIA testimony revealing some details of the spiriting away of alleged miscreants known as (my fave term of this young century) “extraordinary rendition.”

The June 2006 wiretapped exchange between two Italian secret agents uncovers plans to hand over suspects, including Abu Omar to the Americans. Unfortunate to read, but remarks from U.S. diplomats — namely John B. Bellinger, a legal adviser to Sec. State Rice, show a backwards recognition of circumstances, complete with denial and the notion that the U.S. still retains it’s powers of intimidation, etc:

“On the negative side of the ledger, we do continue to have these hysterical, inflated allegations denouncing the United States that unfortunately do fan the flames of suspicion and anti-Americanism.”

A series of question marks pop up — the road to mapping out this world-spanning web of alleged terror-management is taking shape. As active duty soldiers themselves begin taking a stand against the Long War , the U.S. government still contends it’s in a position to muzzle any and all dissent in the name of national security (whatever that is).

My preliminary sketchings include this map of the birthplaces of about half of the 759 detainees that passed through or remain at Guantanamo as documented by the Pentagon last May (see this .pdf).

As the big ugly picture becomes clearer, hopefully logic, remorse and reality will take some effect — as the WaPo also reports today, Canadian citizen Maher Arar, who was illegally deported by America and tortured in Syria remains on the U.S. “watch list.” All this in spite of the Canadian government’s $16 million judicial probe into Arar’s torture case His lawyers are asking that Ottawa compensate him $37 million (CDN dollars, I assume) for Canada’s cooperation with the U.S. in handing him over.

How pulselessly innocent must one be to not be presumed guilty? Will the Supreme Court find it’s own pulse? (see Hamdan / 2006 MCA)

Back to the Bush

kalahari melon danceHunter-gatherer bushmen who had been forced out of Botswana’s Kalahari Desert found there way onto the Web before winning back the right to return to their tribal lands today.

Displaced to settlement camps over the decade, allegedly so Botswana could preserve the land and its wildlife within the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), many of the Bushmen succumbed to starvation, AIDS/HIV and alcoholism. Others banded together with activists including the Archbishop Desmond Tutu behind a civil rights case that went to court originally in 2002.

The Bushmen published a Web site, iwant2gohome.org with photos and pleas for the return of their land.

Many believe that the real reason the bushmen were forced out was corporate pressure from diamond mining giant De Beers. Several international celebs began publicizing the story of a 20,000-year-old hunter-gatherer tribe forced against their will to flee their land and assimilate.

In September, the bushmen published an ad appealing to Leonardo DiCaprio to take a stand for their rights after he filmed Blood Diamond, depicting the murderous diamond trade of Sierra Leone. Later, the L.A. Times joined the De Beers-bashing.

Last week saw the launch of BoycottDeBeers.comm calling for boycott of De Beers and their “conflict diamonds.”

For more on the Kalahari Bushmen and today’s court decision: BBC News (w/ video and photos).

image from David!!!!!s flickr