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The Hardest Working Man in Show Business


James Brown– “Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud”

James Brown, who passed away on Christmas Day, was renowned for his shouting vocals, feverish dancing, and unique fashion flash.  Prof. Jeffrey Melnick— a specialist in teaching African American Studies, popular culture, and American Cultural History—reflected on how completely Brown was engaged with issues of work, power, and race.

“Nowhere was rhythm and blues' interest investment in work explored more dramatically than in the early career of James Brown—The Hardest Working Man in Show Business. When Brown asked the band, 'Can I take it to the bridge,' or 'Can we hit it and quit,' he was play-acting democracy inside the confines of a totalitarian regime.

One of Brown's most effective 'tricks' for calling his audience's attention to his 'work' was to ruin his exquisite stage costumes: as Brown himself put it, “I don't care how well-dressed I am, when I come off, I am drenched in sweat.  You know that I was workin' for you.”   Brown was able to make work out of fun and fun out of work.”