Say It Loud!

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Story by Brenda Jeanne Wyche

Thousands came out -- five blocks deep -- Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, -- all people -- young and old -- from 129th street all the way around the block to the 125th Street entrance of the Apollo to pay tribute to the Godfather of Soul, the legendary -- James Brown.  As I roamed the Harlem streets on this solemn night, rather than mourning, the streets were filled with good will and the funky sounds of James Brown as multitudes of fans paid their respects to the legendary Godfather of Soul.  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.  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.  Bobby's Happy house, located at 2336 8th Avenue between 125th and 126th Streets, added an electrifying accent to the historic memorial as they spinned cut after cut of James Brown's funky sounds that sparked the neighborhood and  people smiled and danced and had a "Funky Good Time" in front of the store as they reminisced and told hey day stories about what they were doing when a particular James Brown jam was out.

Known throughout the world for his music and insurmountable showmanship, James Brown also made a tremendous impact on the evolution of the African American 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, honor and respect ourselves.

I can still recall, and woefully admit, when I was a little girl, a lot of us wished so hard we could be like Doris Day and Shirley Temple.  I remember when getting ready for church on Sundays, how they would fawn over my cousin, Cindy.  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.  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.  You should have seen me squeezing my cheeks till they were sore and squeezing my lips together -- not even to get the slightest hint of pink.  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.  That's just the grease."  Talk about growing pains.  I remember every Sunday, wishing I had "good hair" like Cindy and beautiful pink lips and rosy cheeks, too.  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 out shouting, "Say It Loud! I'm Black and I'm Proud"  and reinforced it in 1970 when he hollered, "Sometimes I feel so nice, GOOD GOD!  I jump back -- I wanna kiss myself.  I've got soul, huh, and I'm super bad -- Hey!"  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!  I'm Black and I'm proud - -
Say it loud!   I'm Black and I'm proud" (1968)

And "I Don't Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing.  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"  Oh Yeah!   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 hours of waiting to pay their last respects to the legend, thousands even camping out overnight, after the white horses and carriage bearing Brown's casket journeyed through Harlem, the doors were finally opened mid-day. The venue was 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 continues be one of the highest ranking all-time classic albums today.

James Brown was appropriately adorned in a rhinestone-studded, royal blue suit with silver shoes at the stately public viewing in reverence of the music legend.  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 was a titan in the entertainment world.  He defined R&B, pop, soul and rap music for five decades.  As one fan stated, "If Elvis Presley were alive today, he would be right here paying tribute to James Brown." 

James Brown had continued to perform more than 100 shows per year and lived up to his name, The Hardest Working Man In Showbusiness.  Brown 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. 

Goodbye, my friend.  Thanks for the lessons and the love.  You will be sorely missed, but your music will live on and on.

ALL MY PEOPLES FROM DUKE'S -- McDOUGAL & 3RD HOLLA!  Sunshine, Benny, Lisa, Angel, Jimmy & Ampara, Star, Adam, Phillip, Willie Jones aka Alien, Tito, Baldy, Steve Dee/The Naked Grape  (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 and CEO of Winning Strategies & Associates.  If you have a solution, contact .  Maybe we’ll talk.

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