Late last night, or more accurately early this morning doing my final email check, I noticed the headline: “James Brown hospitalized with pneumonia.” I immediately had a sinking feeling, but reading the article it didn’t seem all that serious. As it turns out, he was already gone when I was reading it.
The first thing I remember about James Brown was the cape routine during “Please Please Please” which closed all his shows. I saw it on television several times during the sixties and in concert much later on and it was great every time. The best example is probably in the video of the TAMI show. Brown’s announcer Danny Ray puts a cape on him as the song ends, Brown starts moving off the stage and just before he’s about to leave rips off the cape and runs back to the microphone. Ray appears with another cape and it happens all over again. This would happen about four times before he finally left the stage for good. Years later I had the chance to ask Brown about this routine and he said:
It came by accident. I was doin’ real well and a fellow threw a towel around my shoulder and I threw it off and ran back and it kind of got to the people, so then we decided we’d get robes and it kept gettin’ better and better and it become a legendary part of the act and it’s kind of hard to quit. At one point I got kind of tired and wouldn’t do it, like at one point I quite doin’ “Please Please.” That was kind of a mistake. But you livin’ your life, it’s a trainin’ ground. And you find out the strong things that you need to do, so you keep on doin’ it.
Article at CounterPunch