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James Brown Fans Recall His Influence

James Brown Fans Recall His Influence

When Ronald Simmons first heard James Brown's hit "Cold Sweat," he was blown away, especially by Brown's command, "Give the drummer some!"
"When I was a kid I would go crazy when I heard that!" said Simmons, 53. "It did something to me: I've been drumming for the last 35 years."
Simmons was among thousands of fans waiting Thursday outside the Apollo Theater to pay their respects to Brown, who died on Christmas Day at age 73. As they stood in the cold, many spoke passionately about Brown's impact on their lives.
"He is our royalty, our music royalty," said 51-year-old Ruth Davis.
As Brown lay in repose, the area surrounding the Harlem theater became a tribute zone.
Hardly somber, those in line reminisced about a Brown concert and sang along with "It's a Man's Man's Man's World." Some purchased T-shirts, buttons, CDs, DVDs or drawings.
Ebony Croskey, 23, remembered listening to her parents' Brown records as a child and roller-skating to "The Big Payback."
"His music influenced the music of the artists that I listen to today," said Croskey, who stood in line for more than four hours. "R&B, hip-hop. I came to pay my respects from that perspective."
As Brown songs blared from speakers, some in line recalled how Brown revolutionized R&B and laid the foundation for funk, disco and hip-hop as a bandleader, songwriter and producer. His stage presence was electrifying, they said.
But there was another side to Brown. A day after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination in 1968, Brown performed in Boston. His call for calm and the decision to televise the concert are credited with sparing the city the unrest seen elsewhere.
Also that year Brown recorded "Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)," which bolstered black people's pride everywhere, many said.
"There was a time when you would call somebody black and they'd get offended," said Barbara Johnson, 61. "James Brown said, 'No, baby, say it loud: I'm black and I'm proud.'"
Many in line said they were proud of the Godfather of Soul, who started out as a poor boy in Georgia and became an influential musician and entrepreneur.
When Stanley Wood, 54, heard there would be a viewing at the Apollo, where Brown made his debut in 1956, the Philadelphia resident bought a bus ticket to New York.
"His music was very inspirational," Wood said. "No one else at that time sang about being an African-American and being proud. And then his music just made you feel good."


Updated : 2021-07-24 11:30 GMT+08:00