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December 25, 2006

James Brown: 1933 - 2006

skiparty2.jpg

For one year, from the Fall of 1965 through Spring of 1966, I went to a junior high school made up primarily of African-American students. I had moved from Evanston, Illinois to Denver, Colorado, and for the first time in my life heard the music of James Brown. Even though I was exposed to "soul music", it was primarily Motown. My first exposure was a song called "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag". Not only was the music of James Brown extremely popular, but most of the guys tried to dance like James Brown, while some tried to dress like James Brown. At least a couple of guys had made it their goal to be one of the Famous Flames. It is for those reasons that with some affection I call my school of that time, "James Brown Junior High".

While the film Ski Party was never intended to be taken seriously, the scene with James Brown is wonderfully absurd. A little white girl comes up to state that she has all of James Brown's records! This is followed by a performance by James and the dancing flames doing "I Got You (I Feel Good)" before disappearing back into the snow. In the context of the film, and the context of the times, it's something of a non sequitur. If Ski Party is to be remembered at all, it is for this moment of black soul that provides an extreme contrast to one of the whitest movies ever made.

Posted by peter at December 25, 2006 07:42 AM