I suppose I could justify noting the passing of music legend James Brown in a marketing blog: After all, few people ever matched his branding and positioning skills. At first, he established himself as “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business,” as Bobby Byrd would try to put a cape on James to an end performance, but James kept shrugging it off so he could continue to dance and sing. Then when Al Pacino was assuming his place as the Godfather, James became “The Godfather of Soul.”

Both positioning lines worked exceptionally well because they were colorful encapsulations of the truth, and continued to enhance the James Brown Brand.

And of couse I could further justify writing about him here by noting how many times his music has been played on commercials in the past 10 years or so.

But the truth is I just wanted to pay tribute to the passing of a great figure in the history of popular music. Years ago, myself I and my friend “Bull” Bromberg went up to Harlem to see a James Brown concert.

I had never seen or heard anything like it then and haven’t seen or heard anything like it since. No matter how good his early and midcareer albums are, they cannot begin to capture what it sounded like to there live and seeing JB and his band (when James was still somewhere near his prime.).

So that’s it. Bye James. Heaven just got funky.
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James Brown

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2 Responses to “James Brown – The Godfather of Soul – is Gone”

  1. David Brombergon 25 Dec 2006 at 10:38 am

    During a concert tour in 1981, Bruce Springsteen did a radio spot-“Hi,I’m Bruce Springsteen, the 2nd hardest working man in show business and I listen to WNEW-FM.” As monumental as his live shows were in those days, Bruce knew the score on this one.

    I was at the Apollo Theatre on a Saturday night in 1970 with Leon Altman, my childhood friend. We were the only two white guys in the place. We were more than a little nervous.

    Then the band came on, then James and it turned into the most thrilling night of my life. There is no music that has ever sounded like James Brown did that night live. “The King of ’em all.”

  2. Mike Kirneron 11 Jan 2007 at 1:12 pm

    It was Spring 1994 and I was the Director of Marketing for a popular Macerich Shopping Center in California. Leon Altman and I created an event called “Salute to Fabio” – a Health and Fitness promotion with a creative, satirical twist.

    During the event, several “Fabio” impersonators pumped iron, flexed and wowed the crowd with unbridled physicality. In the background the song “I’m a Sex Machine” blared with
    its rough, yet sensual familiarity.

    Nico, a twenty-something hardbody male dancer with a flowing black mane began to undulate and pulse as James Brown’s voice echoed throughout the million square feet Northgate Mall.

    This was a family shopping center and the performances of the contestants was rather unexpected. Perhaps the $2,000 first prize was enough incentive to sacrifice inhibitions.

    The reactions of many female shoppers was a combination of delight and frenzy.

    Following the event, I received several anonymous and awkward phone calls from what appeared to be respectable female shoppers who literally begged me to give out the contact number for Nico, the black-haired dancer. It turns out that one of the women was a well known radio personality who had seen the contest. Actually, she was one of the judges.

    Surely it was the irresistible beat and rhythm of Brown’s song that transformed demure sales seeking shoppers into retail sex machines.

    Michael Kirner

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