Okay, check this out. It’s 12:55 a.m. and I’m on my way to Dayton, Ohio, by way of Houston, Texas, to play a gig with jazz guitarist Doc Powell. Needless to say, it will take all night and part of the day to reach the festival site. This is the reason why the airlines call it a “red eye” flight (better known as a “dead eye” flight). Anyway, when we were walking to the site I heard a low-end funk groove, and I mean, it was kickin’. Closer and closer, louder and louder, it was James Brown’s “Sex Machine.” We were singing, dancing, finger poppin’ and doing our best James Brown impressions. All of that after a Trains, Plane & Automobiles—type trip that left us dead to the world. But we had the energy to get funky, thanks to James.
The next day I’m running to catch the next plane to New York (upstate) and while standing in line a young man has a boom box playing En Vogue’s “No, You’re Never Gonna Get It,” which also has a James Brown sample driving the groove. The people around him, young and old, were tapping their feet and bobbing their heads – well, except for a guy who seemed to be annoyed with the fact that his flight was canceled. Nonetheless, James Brown was making people happy.
Segue to the next day. I’m setting up my kit for the Lilith Fair. I’m working with a young artist named Rebekah. We have the second slot on the B stage, and the front house guy is playing a funky version of “I Got You (I Feel Good)” that I had never heard before, but it was James. The crew was setting up and unwrapping cable and plugging lines in and they were smiling and pretty much not complaining about the fact that the sun was kicking their behinds. Once again, James Brown.
I then realized that I had been hearing James Brown in one form or another for my whole trip. James was helping me and everyone else through the day. Now that’s what I call the power of funk. I did a little research and found some interesting things about the James Brown era. I recommend that while doing your research on the many different kinds of music that you’re into, don’t pass up the Godfather of Soul! Soul brother number one! Mr. Please, please himself, James Brown.
He had many rhythm sections and a handful of drummers. The two drummers who come to mind are the ones who played on most of his hits: Clyde Stubblefield and John “Jabo” Starks. I have picked four of my favorite James Brown grooves. This will give you the power of funk.