“Living In America” — James Brown

No Words, No Song
6 min readMay 21, 2019

We’ve mentioned the Queen of Country Music and the King of Rock and Roll round here lately, so an appearance from the Godfather of Soul seemed a little overdue.

The Godfather of Soul was James Brown. He wasn’t just the Godfather of Soul, though. James Brown more or less invented funk, as we know it, too.

And he was the unwitting “patient zero” of hip-hop as well. Many of his early records would later be sampled to provide the beats, the rhythms, the bass-lines and the horns which underpinned the tidal wave of new music emerging from the inner cities in the 1980s.

Hip-hop would go on to dominate the record industry of the 21st century, but much of its early rise to prominence was on the back of samples from James Brown records.

Rolling Stone magazine awarded James Brown the title of “the most sampled man in the music business”. His records “Funky Drummer” and “Funky President” were particularly popular sources of samples, but everyone from the Beastie Boys to NWA to Dr Dre to Run-DMC and Tupac took a little bit of James Brown with them on their journeys to stardom.

His immense influence on the music industry was recognised again by Rolling Stone in their listing of the 100 Greatest Artists of all time.

James Brown came in at number sever, beaten only by Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Chuck Berry, The Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Elvis in his impact on the music business.

Perhaps an even greater measure of his stature is that James Brown appeared higher up the list than Aretha Franklin, Little Richard and Ray Charles…great artists all.

But none of those greats could put on a show like James Brown. He was renowned for the energy and intensity of his live appearances. As a bandleader he had a real skill in selecting the best musicians and making sure they gave everything they had to give night after night on the road.

Working in James Brown’s band was an intense process, not for the faint-hearted. But then I don’t imagine working for anyone whose creative output played such a pivotal role in the development of three different musical genres would be an easy ride.

After falling out of favour a little in the mid-1970s, James Brown’s career stalled. Ironically his work had never been more popular in the discos, nightclubs and street corners where dance music was going through its evolution from the slickly-produced…

No Words, No Song

Without words, it’s just a nice tune. Add words — now you’ve got a song. And songs can change your world. I write about some that changed mine.