Say It Loud!
Brenda Jeanne Wyche remembers The Godfather of Soul.
"We demand a chance to do things for ourselves.We're tired of beatin' our head against the wall; workin' for someone else.We are people.Just like the birds and bees. We'd rather die on our feet
Than be livin' on our knees."Say it loud!
Story by Brenda Jeanne Wyche
Thousands came out -- five blocks deep -- Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, -- all people -- young and oldÂ -- from 129th street all the way around the blockÂ to the 125th Street entrance of the Apollo to pay tribute to theÂ Godfather of Soul, the legendaryÂ -- James Brown.Â As I roamed the Harlem streets on this solemn night, rather than mourning, the streets were filled withÂ good will and the funky sounds of James Brown as multitudes of fans paid their respects to the legendary Godfather of Soul.Â Block after block, all through Harlem you could hear a myriad of selections of James Brown's greatest hits -- songs that kept us on The Good Foot for decades, through the good times and the not-so-good times.Â They gathered inside and outside of Bobby's Happy House -- a mecca of Golden Oldies and a photo gallery of the golden days where the mega stars of the '60s and 70's lined the walls.Â Bobby's Happy house,Â locatedÂ at 2336 8th Avenue between 125th andÂ 126th Streets, added anÂ electrifying accent to the historic memorial as they spinned cut after cut of James Brown's funky sounds thatÂ sparked the neighborhoodÂ andÂ Â people smiled and danced and had a "Funky Good Time" in front of the storeÂ as theyÂ reminisced and told hey day stories about what they were doing when a particular James BrownÂ jam was out.
Known throughout the world for his music and insurmountable showmanship, James Brown also made aÂ tremendous impact on the evolution of the African AmericanÂ community in his crusade to instill in us that we must be proud of who we are -- that we are a great people -- and to love,Â honor and respectÂ ourselves.
I can still recall,Â and woefullyÂ admit, when I was a little girl, a lot of usÂ wished so hard we could be like Doris Day and Shirley Temple.Â I remember when getting ready for church on Sundays, howÂ theyÂ would fawn over my cousin, Cindy.Â My Mama Nellie could just take a little water and her two fingers and roll them up in Cindy's long, straight locks and make the cutest, bouncy "Shirly Temple" curls, as we called them.Â Then she would pinch Cindy's cheeks and they would turn the cutest cherry red and she would tell her to rub her lips together hard and they would turn lipstick pink.Â You should have seen me squeezing my cheeks till they wereÂ sore and squeezing my lips together -- not even to getÂ the slightestÂ hint of pink.Â How many dozens of times I got singed with that hot comb trying to straighten out my naps and when I hollered, Mama would say, "Shut yo' mouth, gal.Â That's just the grease."Â Talk about growing pains.Â I remember every Sunday, wishing I had "good hair" like Cindy and beautiful pink lips and rosy cheeks, too.Â Don't get me wrong -- there was not a jealous bone in my body then -- Cindy and I were so close, we even cut blood to be sisters -- but how I wished I had those "cool" attributes.
Then in 1968, James Brown came outÂ shouting, "Say It Loud! I'm Black and I'm Proud"Â and reinforced it in 1970 when he hollered, "Sometimes I feel so nice, GOOD GOD!Â I jump back --Â I wanna kiss myself.Â I've got soul, huh, and I'm super bad -- Hey!"Â Â Y'all know what I'm talkin' about.
James Brown was advocating economic empowerment long before its raving popularity now in the millenium.
"Now we demand a chance to do things for ourselves
We're tired of beatin' our head against the wall
And workin' for someone else
We are people, we're just like the birds and the bees
We'd rather die on our feet
Than be livin' on our knees
Say it loud!Â Â I'm Black and I'm proud - -
Say it loud! Â Â I'm Black and I'm proud" (1968)
And "I Don't Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing.Â Open Up The Door -- I'll Get It Myself." (1969)
Back in the day, I know life wasn't easy for most of us -- to put it mildly -- but James Brown always helped us cope with his reassuring chants that often helped us forget our troubles --- like, "We're Gonna Have a Funky Good Time"Â Oh Yeah!Â Â and "Get Up ah Get On Up -- Stay On The Scene-uh Like a Sex Machine" or "Hot Pants" or "I Got That Feelinah" and the classic, "Please, Please, Please."
Pursuant to hoursÂ of waiting to pay their last respects to the legend, thousands even camping out overnight, afterÂ theÂ white horses and carriage bearing Brown's casketÂ journeyed through Harlem,Â the doors were finally openedÂ mid-day. The venue wasÂ prominently befitting since the Godfather of Soul's 1962 album, "Live at the Apollo, Vol. 1" was a top-of-the charts classic then and continuesÂ be one of the highestÂ rankingÂ all-time classic albums today.
James Brown was appropriately adorned inÂ a rhinestone-studded, royal blue suit with silver shoesÂ at the stately public viewing inÂ reverence of the music legend.Â Civil rights leader, Al Sharpton greeted mourners as they walked past Brown's casket, and at 6:00 pm, he began the memorial service for Brown's family. "He started with nothing and he rocked the world," stated Al Sharpton in his emotional eulogy.
James Brown wasÂ a titan in the entertainment world.Â Â HeÂ defined R&B, pop, soul and rap music for five decades.Â As oneÂ fan stated, "If Elvis Presley were alive today, he would be right here paying tribute toÂ James Brown."Â
James BrownÂ had continued to perform more than 100 shows per year and lived up to his name, The Hardest Working Man In Showbusiness.Â BrownÂ had been scheduled to play New Year's Eve in New York.
The beloved Godfather of Soul, James Brown, civil rights leader, a remarkable entertainer and a wonderful human being, died suddenly early Christmas Day of congestive heart failure after being hospitalized for pneumonia in Atlanta, Georgia.Â
Goodbye, my friend.Â Thanks for the lessons and the love.Â YouÂ will be sorely missed, but your music will live on and on.
ALL MY PEOPLES FROM DUKE'S -- McDOUGAL & 3RD HOLLA!Â Sunshine, Benny, Lisa, Angel, Jimmy & Ampara, Star, Adam, Phillip, Willie Jones aka Alien, Tito, Baldy, Steve Dee/The Naked Grape Â (Spring)
To hear Al Sharpton's eulogy and to get more coverage, logon to
Brenda Jeanne Wyche, Advocate for Solutions and Results is Managing Editor for The Black Star News and Harlem Business News andÂ CEO of Winning Strategies & Associates.Â If you have a solution, contact firstname.lastname@example.org .Â Maybe weâ€™ll talk.
To subscribe to or advertise in New Yorkâ€™s leading Pan African weekly investigative newspaper, please call (212) 481-7745 or send a note to Milton@blackstarnews.com
â€œSpeaking Truth To Empower.â€?
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