James Brown Part Six
I find listening to James Brown, makes me happy, so in James Brown Part Six, I’m happy and I wish you would also be happy.
1991–2006: Final years
James Brown performing in June 2005
After his stint in prison during the late 1980s, Brown met Larry Fridie and Thomas Hart who produced the first James Brown biopic, entitled James Brown: The Man, the Message, the Music, released in 1992. He returned to music with the album Love Over-Due in 1991. It included the single “(So Tired of Standing Still We Got to) Move On”, which peaked at No. 48 on the R&B chart. His former record label Polydor also released the four-CD box set Star Time, spanning Brown’s career to date. Brown’s release from prison also prompted his former record labels to reissue his albums on CD, featuring additional tracks and commentary by music critics and historians. That same year, Brown appeared on rapper MC Hammer’s video for “Too Legit to Quit”. Hammer had been noted, alongside Big Daddy Kane, for bringing Brown’s unique stage shows and their own energetic dance moves to the hip-hop generation; both listed Brown as their idol. Both musicians also sampled his work, with Hammer having sampled the rhythms from “Super Bad” for his song “Here Comes the Hammer”, from his best-selling album Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em. Before the year was over, Brown–who had immediately returned to work with his band following his release–organized a pay-per-view concert following a show at Los Angeles’ Wiltern Theatre, that was well received.
Brown during the NBA All-Star Game jam session, 2001
On June 10, 1991, James Brown and a star-filled line up performed before a crowd at the Wiltern Theatre for a live pay-per-view at-home audience. James Brown: Living in America – Live! was the brainchild of Indiana producer Danny Hubbard. It featured M.C. Hammer as well as Bell Biv Devoe, the Boys, En Vogue, C+C Music Factory, Quincy Jones, Sherman Hemsley and Keenen Ivory Wayans. Ice-T, Tone Loc and Kool Moe Dee performed paying homage to Brown. This was Brown’s first public performance since his parole from the South Carolina prison system in February. He had served two-and-a-half years of two concurrent six-year sentences for aggravated assault and other felonies.
Brown continued making recordings. In 1993 his album Universal James was released. It included his final Billboard charting single, “Can’t Get Any Harder”, which peaked at No. 76 on the US R&B chart and reached No. 59 on the UK chart. Its brief charting in the UK was probably due to the success of a remixed version of “I Feel Good” featuring Dakeyne. Brown also released the singles “How Long” and “Georgia-Lina”, which failed to chart. In 1995, Brown returned to the Apollo and recorded Live at the Apollo 1995. It included a studio track titled “Respect Me”, which was released as a single; again it failed to chart. Brown’s final studio albums, I’m Back and The Next Step, were released in 1998 and 2002 respectively. I’m Back featured the song “Funk on Ah Roll”, which peaked at No. 40 in the UK but did not chart in his native US. The Next Step included Brown’s final single, “Killing Is Out, School Is In”. Both albums were produced by Derrick Monk. Brown’s concert success, however, remained unabated and he kept up with a grueling schedule throughout the remainder of his life, living up to his previous nickname, “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business”, in spite of his advanced age. In 2003, Brown participated in the PBS American Masters television documentary James Brown: Soul Survivor, which was directed by Jeremy Marre.
Brown celebrated his status as an icon by appearing in a variety of entertainment and sports events, including an appearance on the WCW pay-per-view event, SuperBrawl X, where he danced alongside wrestler Ernest “The Cat” Miller, who based his character on Brown, during his in-ring skit with The Maestro. Brown then appeared in Tony Scott’s short film Beat the Devil in 2001. He was featured alongside Clive Owen, Gary Oldman, Danny Trejo and Marilyn Manson. Brown also made a cameo appearance in the 2002 Jackie Chan film The Tuxedo, in which Chan was required to finish Brown’s act after having accidentally knocked out the singer. In 2002, Brown appeared in Undercover Brother, playing himself. In 2004, Brown performed in Hyde Park, London as a support act for Red Hot Chili Peppers concerts.
The beginning of 2005, saw the publication of Brown’s second book, I Feel Good: A Memoir of a Life of Soul, written with Marc Eliot. In February and March, he participated in recording sessions for an intended studio album with Fred Wesley, Pee Wee Ellis, and other longtime collaborators. Though he lost interest in the album, which remains unreleased, a track from the sessions, “Gut Bucket”, appeared on a compilation CD included with the August 2006 issue of MOJO. He appeared at Edinburgh 50,000 – The Final Push, the final Live 8 concert on July 6, 2005, where he performed a duet with British pop star Will Young on “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag”. The previous week he had performed a duet with another British pop star, Joss Stone, on the United Kingdom chat show Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. In 2006, Brown continued his “Seven Decades of Funk World Tour”, his last concert tour where he performed all over the world. His final U.S. performances were in San Francisco on August 20, 2006, as headliner at the Festival of the Golden Gate (Foggfest) on the Great Meadow at Fort Mason. The following day, August 21, he performed at Humboldt State University in Arcata, CA, at a small theatre (800 seats) on campus. His last shows were greeted with positive reviews, and one of his final concert appearances at the Irish Oxegen festival in Punchestown in 2006 was performed for a record crowd of 80,000 people. He played a full concert as part of the BBC’s Electric Proms on October 27, 2006, at The Roundhouse, supported by The Zutons, with special appearances from Max Beasley and The Sugababes. Brown’s last televised appearance was at his induction into the UK Music Hall of Fame in November 2006, before his death the following month.
Before his death, Brown had been scheduled to perform a duet with singer Annie Lennox on the song “Vengeance” for her new album Venus, which was released in 2007.