Lost but not least! James Brown – Show Me Your Friends (Scotti Bros.)
The reason why the outstanding ‘Show Me Your Love’ never managed to get the exposure it truly deserved stands to me as one of these countless mysteries… Yes, we’re talkin’ about a masterpiece which only saw the light as a one-sided promo 12″. A track which just a bunch of happy few happened to receive, including yours truly.
From Brown‘s 1992 ‘Universal James’ album. An opus which, for some reason, didn’t get its distributor – Polygram back then – to work on at the time. But come on, wasn’t this about the Godfather of Soul himself we’re talkin’ about at the end? And, interestingly enough, about a collaboration between the latter and Brit-Soul pioneer Jazzie B of the Soul II Soul fame!!!
Did the Polygram record execs feel ‘Show Me Your Friends’ was a bit too far from James Brown‘s signature? Or that there was no connection between these two people… I suppose we’ll never know. A Bit what a mess at the end though, huh?
Nevertheless, we thought about payin’ justice to ‘Show Me Your Friends’ while submitting it to your attention. Most likely because it’s displaying a sadly underrated but also a madly unexpected facet of James Brown…
A native of Barnwell, SC, James Brown saw the light in a poor environment. Born to a mom who was 16 and a dad who was 6 years older. Then finally raised by one of his aunts after the separation of his parents. Brown also happened to spend some time in a remained home. Eventually makin’ an income from shining shoes at the time. He then formed a Gospel group – The 3 Swanees – along with Bobby Byrd and Johnny Terry in the early 50’s. Relocating to Macon, GA, Little Richard‘s hometown, they hooked up with his former manager, Clint Brantley. And by 1956, they recorded a demo of ‘Please Please Me’. Eventually impressing Ralph Bass who got them signing a record deal with Cincinnati-based label King Records.
Strangely enough, the 10 following records they did for the label didn’t make it, which got them next to be dropped. But the release of ‘Try Me’ changed the fortunes back in 1958. And by 1960, James Brown‘s band – The Flames – had expanded to a 20-piece combo. With the man’s stage presence standing as the most energetic anyone had seen. Then his 1962 live shows recorded at the Apollo Theatre in NYC establishing across the country. Meanwhile paving his way with gems such as ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag’, ‘I Got You (I Feel Good)’ and ‘It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World’. Then eventually getting him to be voted America’s #1 R&B singer the year after…
Brown was constantly reiventing himself. With props due to his musicians, beginning with Pee Wee Ellis who managed to be able to turn his countless ideas into music. This being how Brown and Co. happened to release the first ever Funk tune by the likes of ‘Cold Sweat’ back in 1967. He then recorded ‘Say It Loud, I’m Black And I’m Proud’ as a response to the American street riots in 1968. Eventually finding himself in the position of a (political) Black leader after the tragic assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr..
By 1970, James Brown came up with the influential ‘Funky Drummer’. A track which happened to be the most sampled beat in Hip-Hop. Meanwhile an unequalled amount of staples got him to stand at the top. From ‘Sex Machine’ to ‘Get On The Good Foot’ and ‘Funky President’. But also ‘Get Up Offa That Thing’ and ‘It’s Too Funky In Here’.
Brown most likely evolved with his time. The 80’s seeing him eventually joinin’ forces with Hip-Hop icon Afrika Bambaataa on ‘Unity’. But also scoring one of his biggest successes ever with ‘Living In America’, from the ‘Rocky IV’ OST. His final Pop Top 10 hit with production work courtesy of the late Dan Hartman. He also happened to flirt with New Jack Swing vibes on the Full Force produced album ‘I’m Real’ back in 1988. Then with Brit-Soul with Soul II Soul‘s Jazzie B producing his ‘Universal James’ album, featuring the sadly underrated ‘Show Me Your Friends’ in 1992.
James Brown pretty much remained active until his death in 2006 even though he progressively lost the aura along with time.
He sadly died on Dec. 25, 2006, in Atlanta’s Emory Crawford Long Memorial Hospital from congestive heart failure, resulting from complications of pneumonia. He was 73.
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