Tag Archives: James Brown

Thoughts and Reflections On The Legendary Don C.

Questlove summed it up best: “Next to Berry Gordy, Don Cornelius was hands down the MOST crucial non political figure to emerge from the civil rights era post 68”.

In this country where images — and the creators of those images — mean so much in defining history, the significance Don Cornelius and Soul Train are absolutely invaluable and immeasurable. What stands out most to me is that he gave Black entertainers a national platform to perform; in turn, such gave Black America a chance to genuinely express themselves on a national platform. Prior to him, Blacks on TV were placed there under the strict eye of powers that be (none of whom were Black), never in fashions that willingly showcased their talent and genius. Not as minstrels or brutes or supporting subjects, but as main characters and stars of the show; not looked at as second-fiddle, second-class citizens, but as equals, if not superiors — Black folks who had mastered a craft.

Soul Train, then, was one of the first times, Blacks had a chance control their own portrayal, a critical element in defining one’s own history. This helped set in motion a sense of self-pride among Black folks that was zeitgeist of the time, in general (1970 was the first broadcast — right in the heart of the Black Power and Black Arts Movement). ¬†Moreover, it was so soulful that it reached far beyond the scope of Black America, hitting homes in America in general, as well as abroad in Europe, Asia and more. The “Soul Train Line” has become one of the most commonplace, ubiquitous and familiar rituals in American (and Black American) tradition.

All this said and there’s two words I’m still yet to mention: cool and style. Starting with Cornelius himself, Soul Train helped set the standard for cool — what was cool, and how to be and act cool. We’re still yet to find an individual as cool as Don Cornelius with his baritone voice, blown-out fro and big glasses, interviewing the biggest stars in the business as if it was a run-of-the-mill occurrence (after awhile, I guess it was). Regarding style, the outlandish outfits of performers and dancers, and slick suits of Cornelius were no doubt key in defining Black style (and thus American style) at the time.

Unfortunately, I was born about 20 years too late to have chance to witness Soul Train at its hottest. Fortunately, it came on through the 90s and my Pops always had it on. Unfortunately, it was hosted by Shemar Moore by then. Fortunately, we have now have YouTube.

While we have 106 & Park and other countdown-style programs today, none can hold a candle to Soul Train, which remained completely uncontaminated by the Viacoms of the world even after its popularity took off. It’s influences are still prevalent (this blog, if you read the url, was originally titled, Love, Hip-Hop & Soul, very much an ode to Soul Train). While words can’t describe the magnitude of Soul Train and Cornelius’ impact, and there are surely other articles written by folks using more anecdotal accounts, I felt obligated to take some time to dedicate a post to this fallen souldier. Rest In Power, Don.


Jay-Z & Kanye West – Gotta Have It; Watch The Throne

Producer: The Neptunes

Sample: James Brown – My Thang [Link]; James Brown – Don’t Tell A Life About Me and I Won’t Tell A Truth About You [Link]; James Brown – I’m Greedy Man [Link]; James Brown – People Get Up And Drive Your Funky Soul [Link]; Harry Gregson-Williams – The Temple [Link]

Best hip-hop album intro of the year. Love how this song has already made its way into other realms of pop culture — played at Oracle Arena during the Clippers-Warriors game, and in the commercial for the new Denzel movie that I don’t know the name of.

Jay-Z & Kanye West – No Church In The Wild; Watch The Throne

Producer: 88-Keys, Kanye West & Mike Dean

Samples: Spooky Tooth – Sunshine Help Me [Link]; Phil Manzanera – K Scope [Link]; James Brown – Don’t Tell A Life About Me and I Won’t Tell A Truth About You [Link]

James Brown – Talking Loud and Saying Nothing; There It Is


James Brown – Get On The Good Foot; Get On The Good Foot

Producer: James Brown

Stand!(out) Protest Songs

Per Bomani Jones’ twitter, the link for Time Magazine’s top 10 protest songs came across my timeline. Their list, in my opinion, was decent at best (Wayne’s “Georgia…Bush” was included, but no Public Enemy, Gil Scott-Heron, etc? Ok…). Bomani followed up shortly after Time’s was revealed with a list of his own, which sparked me to think about my own litany of great protest records (which had been on my mind anyway, especially given the “Occupy Wall Street” movement that’s currently underway and seemingly gaining momentum.) Thus, here are a handful of tracks (12 of them, I think) that explicitly speak on various injustices in the world: racism, classism, lynching, oppression, police brutality, Black on Black crime, etc.

(I stuck to what I know: hip-hop, soul, jazz, funk and R&B, so don’t shoot me for not having any rock tunes [namely the Bob Dylan joints]. It’d be blasphemy if I tried to include them as if I had a true extensive knowledge of the genre.

After “War”, the list goes in alphabetical order.)

This video is an event of its own.

Edwin Starr – War; War & Peace

Producer: Norman Whitfield

Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit

Bob Marley – Get Up Stand Up; Burnin’

Producer: Chris Blackwell & The Wailers

Gil Scott-Heron – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised; Small Talk At 125th and Lenox

Producer: Bob Thiele

James Brown – Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud;¬†Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud

Producer: James Brown

Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On; What’s Going On

Producer: Marvin Gaye

N. W.A. – F*** Tha Police; Straight Outta Compton

Producer: Dr. Dre & DJ Yella

Public Enemy – Fight The Power; Fear Of A Black Planet

Producer: The Bomb Squad

Stevie Wonder: Living For The City; Innervisions

Producer: Stevie Wonder

“It’s time for us to stop and redefine Black Power”¬†

Jay-Z & Kanye West – Murder To Excellence; Watch The Throne

Producer: Swizz Beatz (Murder) & S1 (Excellence)

This could have very easily been “Everyday People,” too, which was also on this album.

Sly & The Family Stone – Stand!; Stand!

Producer: Sly Stone

James Brown – The Boss; Black Caesar

Producer: James Brown