James Brown is Dead

Original idea 12/9. Write up is 12/9 and 12/14

For all of you chumps who don’t know who James Brown is – he is THE Godfather of Soul and one of the leading stars of the Apollo Theater. The man’s a legend. A few of his songs:

If you’re not hyped by this, watch Jackie Chan being hyped about meeting James Brown in the (thoroughly mediocre) movie “The Tuxedo” (I liked and remember this movie because I liked Jackie Chan a lot growing up (yes, I loved watching Jackie Chan Adventures growing up. Judge me once you got more examples of Asians in popular media!)). Even Jackie Chan wants to be James Brown!

Now, this scene in particular is interesting, because as the Youtube clip name hints – Jackie Chan ‘kills’ James Brown in this scene. The movie trailer for this movie emphasized this scene quite a bit as a funny throw-away gag, as I remember from all of the ads I watched on TV.

However, James Brown’s death has actually been parodied in more than just this movie. Apparently, James Brown’s death has been a popular topic in media both before and after his death. One could argue that it’s because of his super influential role in funk and soul. Although a quick google search does give me some results for “Elvis is Dead” songs, you mostly hear people arguing that Elvis and other seminal figures (Tupac?) are alive, not dead. I’m not sure what about James Brown makes him so ripe for death.

This original post was inspired by “James Brown is Dead” by You, Me and Everyone We Know . It’s pretty generic 2010 indie pop in my opinion, but it came up because the beginning of the chorus (0:26) sounds like “James Rowan is Dead” instead of “James Brown is Dead”, which freaked the crap out of James Rowan the first time he heard it. He then turned to me and asked who James Brown is, at which point, I berated him and gave him the text dump from above. “Ohhhhh”, he said, “That’s why the lyric says that there’s no point of pretending that we have any soul’

I was then trying to find the song by myself to listen to it some more and found that it was incredibly hard to find. It turns out that this is the least famous “James Brown is Dead” song, not even meriting a Wikipedia page.

The most famous version is the techno classic by L.A. Style. Notably James Brown was still alive in the time when this classic techno song written, with 15 more years in his life span. However, this didn’t stop an army of remixers doing call and response to them, each picking their own favorite famous figure to claim death or other facts. I think my favorite title is “Who The Hell Is James Brown?!”. Personally, I thought this track was too brash, but upon further relistenings, I like it quite a bit – very old school techno. (I’ll be talking about answer songs in a future post, so get excited for that 😀 )

The next most popular song was a version by Shwayze. This was recorded 2 years after James Brown’s death and is much more obviously attacking the modern state of music (“They said he died ’cause Hip hop sucks”). Too bad his music isn’t very good 😛

Regardless, I haven’t heard so much musical tribute since The Day The Music Died (aka. American Pie). If anyone has any insights on why James Brown is Dead is so popular, I’d appreciate it!

Stay musical, my friends.

-Lilly

2 thoughts on “James Brown is Dead

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