by Adrian Potter
From Fall 2016
In dark-haired pompadour glory, body whittled from obsidian – shit, even his trademark scream was black. When James Brown made it funky, everyone sweated, even in wintertime. Traces of the holy ghost rattled through his throat as South Carolina’s soulful son bent his heavy breath around lyrics, coaxed endless grooves from the ancestors of breakbeats. Back when fractured stereotypes represented fault lines splitting our country, Soul Brother Number 1 coached us to be proud and black the same way a man takes darkness and makes it moan like a pretty lady. We, too, are all sex machines, passion lathering over us like concert sweat. Our pigmented skin, our diaspora is not a scourge. How could it be? If we listen, James Brown’s furnace heart still flames posthumously. Furious footwork, call and response yelps, clutching hope like a microphone, hardest working man in show business hunkered over, spent, waiting for his cape. The music’s loud, yes, but James Brown too knows hush: the lull in our battles with desire and demons, the carved space between feeling good and seeking payback, all the emptiness filled, finally, when we believe we can be made whole, that we can get on the good foot and dance our way towards happiness.