Tag Archives: James Brown

“Scrubs” musical fantasies

Despite its hackneyed premise—a group of medical students trying to get ahead in the competitive hospital environment—the television series Scrubs had something special: a judicious selection of accompanying music.

Sometimes the choice was linked to the musical biographies of the prominent figures, and other times the lyrics referred directly or indirectly to the development of the plot, to particular events, or to important characters. The frequent fantasies involving the main character, Dr. John Dorian, are riddled with emblematic musical references to the pop–rock music of the last 60 years, offering a rich and representative sample of what the last three generations were listening to.

This according to “La inserción del número musical en las series de televisión: El papel de la música en Scrubs” by Judith Helvia García Martín (Cuadernos de etnomusicología 3 [marzo 2003] pp. 204–19).

Above and below, a fantasy sequence involving James Brown’s The payback.

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Bobby Byrd and James Brown

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The singer, composer, and bandleader Bobby Byrd’s life and career were closely intertwined with those of James Brown.

Growing up together in Toccoa, Georgia, Byrd gave Brown his first break by inviting him to join the Famous Flames—the vocal group founded by Byrd—after his family took a young Brown into their home following a prison term served for robbery.

After Brown seized the frontman spot, and after he briefly dismissed the Flames altogether, Byrd went on to play an integral role in Brown’s career both on stage and off for the next ten years, providing vocal counterpoint and musical leadership while also serving as an intermediary between the singers, musicians, and dancers employed by Brown.

Known for his catch phrase “Don’t worry ‘bout a thing”, Byrd was widely loved and respected. Although he carved out a modest solo career, if he had been associated with the writers, producers, and musicians at a label like Atlantic or Stax, today he would be remembered alongside the likes of Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, and Solomon Burke. His bond with Brown was perhaps both blessing and curse, but their shared background, struggles, and successes made the bond nearly inevitable.

This according to “Don’t worry ‘bout a thing: Bobby Byrd (1934–2007)” by Alan Leeds (Wax poetics 26 [December/January 2007/2008] pp. 36–39.

Today is Byrd’s 80th birthday! Above, Bobby Byrd (center of trio) with Johnny Terry, Bobby Bennett, and James Brown at the Apollo Theater in 1964; below, with the JB All-Stars in 1989).

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James Brown’s Deleuzian idiocy

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James Brown’s public acclaim as a musical visionary was often counterpointed by the private disdain of many of the trained musicians in his bands, who scorned his musical illiteracy.

An unorthodox valorization of Brown’s approach to composition is suggested by Deleuze’s account, in Différence et répétition, of the idiot as the pedant’s polar opposite. As a musical idiot, Brown’s naive immunity to conceptual rules or institutionally dominant forms of thinking—his capacity, in other words, for thought without presupposition—enabled modes of conceptual originality that evaded the musically trained.

This according to “James Brown: The illogic of innovation” by John Scannell (New formations: A journal of culture/theory/politics 66 [spring 2009] pp. 118–133). Today would have been Brown’s 80th birthday! Below, the Godfather of Soul defies logic in his heyday.

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