BHM Fashion Tribute: James Brown
James Brown aka”The Godfather of Soul” was quite the entertainer.
His signature frantic dance moves, wild vocals and funky fashion made him one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. James’ music crossed barriers into to soul, funk, disco, rock and rap genres, and strongly impacted African popular music like afrobeat. His remarkable career began in the mid 1950s, and leaped many hurdles to span all the way into the 1980s.
James was also renowned for his social activism during the 1960s and 1970s, namely inspiring children to stay in school and performing benefit concerts for various civil rights organizations. With tracks like “Say it Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud”, and “Don’t Be a Drop Out”, James creatively approached many social issues.
His performances were more like spectacles, complete with his signature “cape routine”. Usually while he was performing “Please, Please, Please”, James would drop to his knees while clutching the microphone stand in his hands. This trademark move was then completed by the show’s MC coming out, draping a cape over James’ shoulders and escorting him off the stage. James would then shake off the cape and return to the stage for an encore.
James signature style included high-waisted pants, bright suits in various fabrications, low cut vests and shirts under suit jackets, and lots of glitter.
Maceo Parker, a former saxophonist in James’ band said the following about the legendary musician’s demands when it came to performances:
“You gotta be on time. You gotta have your uniform. Your stuff’s got to be intact. You gotta have the bow tie. You got to have it. You can’t come up without the bow tie. You cannot come up without a cummerbund … [The] patent leather shoes we were wearing at the time gotta be greased. You just gotta have this stuff. This is what [Brown expected] … [Brown] bought the costumes. He bought the shoes. And if for some reason [the band member decided] to leave the group, [Brown told the person to] please leave my uniforms…”
James passed away from complications of pneumonia on Christmas Day 2006, at the age of 73. He definitely went in style, undergoing a costume change between his two separate viewings – the first being a black jewel-encrusted suit with black gloves and a bright ruby red shirt, while the latter was a flashier satin blue number with white gloves.
“When I saw him move, I was mesmerized. I knew that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life because of James Brown.” - Michael Jackson
Watch The Godfather of Soul in action during a 1989 performance of “I Feel Good”: