A Refresher Course In How It's Done: James Brown On Late Night With David Letterman, 1982!



I remember it like it was yesterday. I had somehow gotten my parents to let me stay up past my normal bedtime to watch Letterman on school nights so it was with a certain amount of boredom that I approached the prospect of watching James Brown on that night's episode.

After all, James Brown was a throwback to my parents' music and, back then, no kid thought their parents' music was anywhere near as cool as their music. I was no different: my collection of Cheap Trick, Duran Duran, and Prince records was obviously superior to my dad's Percy Sledge, Canned Heat and James Brown albums.

I was so bored by the prospect of watching this has-been do his thing on late night TV that I chose to go to bed instead, but my dad said, "Stick around, you just might learn something."

With the recent passing of Prince and the universal outpouring of affection for the man and his music, I kept waiting for someone somewhere to mention how much of an influence upon a young Prince James Brown had been.

Seeing Brown here, well past his prime, it is refreshing to see the man putting so much of himself into the performance. For all we know, this could be what it looks like when James Brown phones it in, but what I saw that night as a young kid was a legend getting off on being backed by a band that was excited to be playing with him, knew their shit forwards and backwards, and gave him the opportunity to shine for a new generation of fans.

Though I had yet to begin my own journey as a musician, even I could see that Paul Schaffer, Hiram Bullock, and Steve Jordan took supreme pleasure in kicking it up a notch for the Godfather of Soul, That night, they truly lived up to the name The World's Most Dangerous Band.

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