Thursday, September 05, 2013

The Hardest Working Man (Take I)

I'm about halfway through The Hardest Working Man: How James Brown Saved the Soul of America (2009), a stellar little book by James Sullivan. Very exciting stuff about James Brown, well-contextualized -- where he came from, what he did and how he did it. Sullivan structures the thrust of his chapters around the immediate aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., when the Hardest Working Man in Show Business helped stabilize the popular situation, which had been ruled by intense anger, riot and contagion. 

In The Hardest Working Man, we learn a lot of unexpected things, like the apparent fact that 28-year old Barney Frank came up with the idea of broadcasting Brown's concert, something that quickly (and quite improbably) came to fruition as Live at the Boston Garden: April 5, 1968 (WGBH-TV).
The Hardest Working Man does a lot of other connecting of the magical dots -- even beyond the idea that anyone who puts their mind to it ought to be able to connect any point A with any point B, no matter how unrelated either may seem.

One connection to Brown's arc was none other than Sweet Daddy Grace, "a legendary charismatic figure born in 1884 in the Cape Verde Islands . . . A demonstrative preacher with a Daliesque mustache who prompted members of his congregation to speak in tongues . . . often accompanied by multiple bands 'to assure jumping dance music' . . ." (Sullivan, pages 56-57). 

Brown seized upon some of Sweet Daddy's showmanship in developing his own stage act, and the rest is history . . . (to be continued).

Today's Rune: Breakthrough.  And a Fine & Happy 60th Anniversary to my parents, Don and Barb France!  

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

I do on occasion read bios of musicians but pretty much only rock folks.