Wednesday, December 27, 2006

James Brown, and slavin’ for the man

In death, James Brown has been generally afforded all the respect he got in the last years of his life. In other words, the feeding frenzy now extends to milking his fresh corpse.

By this I particularly mean a disgraceful editorial in today’s Australian, and more generally, a wilful blindness to Brown’s having worked himself into the grave. There’s no stopping some people, of course, from more or less deliberately dying with their boots on, but all the signs are that James Brown was a minor actor in programming his grueling touring schedule as a septuagenarian.

“Hard work” is a noble thing, but only if the rewards flow primarily to oneself – or one’s family, at least – and one gets to enjoy them. The former condition is unlikely to have been met in Brown’s case, courtesy of his seemingly parasitical lawyer and accountant, whose moral calibres are attested to by Brown’s wife and young son having been ex parte locked out of the family home by the duo. As for enjoying his wealth – or at least what trickled down to him – James Brown never had a farewell tour (AFAICT), and so was presumably years off any prospect of a dignified retirement.

But never mind any of that, editorialises the Australian; Brown’s cotton-picking sweat – literally in his youth – looks and smells as its own reward:

Brown [was] the personification of reward for effort. He championed pride and empowerment for black Americans and preached the path to progress was hard work, not handouts . . . Brown's personal dramas followed him into death, with his widow Tomi Rae Brown claiming she had been locked out of his estate by his lawyers. But these troubles serve to amplify the scale of his achievements . . . [Brown’s] message that hard work is the recipe for prosperity in the face of adversity is [as] durable [as his musical legacy].

I saw James Brown perform at a touring festival earlier this year* – as it happens, his last# Australian gig. His red suit, with its ultra-high-waisted pants, appeared to be a decade or two older than the average patron (teens to early 20s). There was something odd about such a legend going through the motions in a hot and dusty paddock outside Perth – something that smelt of desperation and exploitation. If the Rolling Stones – in their prime, a much inferior act to Brown in his prime – are still performing into their 70s, there’s no way they’d be on that sort of treadmill.

Apparently, James Brown was questioned, before he came to Australia this year, as an appropriate headliner choice for the festival. There’s no subtext here that the “naysayers” were concerned about Brown's health. Worse, Iain Shedden drops this clanger, in the midst of an ostensible tribute to Brown:

[J]ust 10 months ago, I witnessed Brown for the last time. It was a huge disappointment. He was back to his cabaret routine, ranting show-biz banter, and for inordinate periods disappearing or taking a back seat, allowing the band to strut its funky stuff. He couldn't have been at the microphone for more that 40 minutes.

I’m sure that if he could, James Brown would sincerely apologise to you Iain, for ruining your precious little festival experience earlier this year. I pray that when you’re 72, Iain, you’ll be working like a navvy at a fast-food restaurant or somesuch, where customers will regularly tell you to hurry the f* up.

I’ll leave the (amost) word to the asinine Glenn A Baker, though:

"I think historians are going to be trying to fully come to grips with what he did for a lot of years to come".

I think you mean accountants, Glenn.

Update 30 December 2006

An Age-journo dickwit writes today: “[James] Brown was no Steve Irwin”. This is meant to be a put-down.

Meanwhile, on the Sydney arrogance-cum-exquisite-ignorance front, Phil at Larvatus Prodeo seems to be channeling his inner-Oz journo, in taking a pro-nuke-power stance, and then this:

The issue of congestion has more to do with motoring culture and the failure of adequate transport policies in Sydney. Convenient public transport comprising a range of options from public to private, buses to light and heavy rail and my favourite, a genuine busting up of the taxi cartel (something Macquarie Bank is attempting to do).

Macquarie Bank as a good guy (in transport policy, or anything else, for that matter)? You deserve your own sitcom, Phil. I’d also recommend a career for Phil in fiction, rather than fact, given that he is oblivious to the elementary fact that Clive Hamilton – who is hated at this blog probably more than any other – lives in Canberra, not Sydney.

* Good Vibrations festival; Belvoir Amphitheatre, Perth 19 February 2006

# The Australian, with typical Sydney arrogance-cum-exquisite-ignorance, states Brown’s last Australian gig was the Sydney leg (18 February 2006) of “Good Vibrations”.

enjoy reading

What is it with Glenn A Baker? I don't get him at all.

He's a Mormon. and Church members who fail to live the church's lifestyle code may, in more serious cases, be subject to church disciplinary action including disfellowshipment or excommunication. The church considers "serious" cases to include felonies, abortion, taking drugs, non-heterosexual or non-married sex, apostasy, or public and vocal criticism of church leaders.

Hardly rock and roll.

The 7.30 Report quotes Baker more as a 1960s-Blackpower history expert than anything else. Maybe Mormorism turns a blind eye to anything dubious, providing it is performed with over-enthusiastic amateurism. If so, Glenn A Baker is wholly without sin.
glad to have you back, Mr Watson. you're an institution ...
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?