© 2024 New Hampshire Public Radio

Persons with disabilities who need assistance accessing NHPR's FCC public files, please contact us at publicfile@nhpr.org.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Purchase your tickets now for a chance to win $35k toward a new car or $25k in cash, and our next prize of an electric bike!

The Soul Of James Brown

James Brown performs at Montreux Jazz Festival in 1981.
Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images
James Brown performs at Montreux Jazz Festival in 1981.

It should come as no surprise that James Brown has inspired countless tributes and covers, both good and bad. On the heels of an excellent compilation of tributes to the funk kingpin, called Jump Back! Imitations, Interpolations and the Inspiration of James Brown, I felt justified to dig into my collection and turn up some companion pieces for a study into the icon's soul. Here are five of the most unusual and exceptional examples, from inspired tributes to psychedelic reinventions.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Augusta, Georgia (Here I Come)

"Augusta, Georgia" doesn't sound like it was recorded in 1991, but it was. Brothers Jan and Max Weissenfeldt, then teenage funk fans (and later of the Poets of Rhythm and the Whitefield Brothers), journeyed from Munich to the U.S. in search of rare 45s. Unaware of the country's size, they booked a bus trip from New York to New Orleans. It might have been a tough ride, but upon their return to Germany, they recorded this ode to James Brown and his hometown and self-released as a 45 on their Hot Pie and Candy Records label. If their vocalist, Bo Baral, hadn't returned to his normal voice as the recording ends, you'd swear that this song was recorded by a black band touring the Chitlin' Circuit in the late '60s.

Popcorn/Oye Como Va

A contest for army bands sponsored by the U.S. Army in Germany yielded a double album featuring the contest's winners: a white band (the aptly named Soap) on one side and a black band (East of Underground) on the other. East of Underground's album, a masterpiece of stoned psychedelic covers of the likes of The Mamas and the Papas, Funkadelic and the Undisputed Truth, also paid homage to James Brown with this devastating cover of "Popcorn."

It's My Thing

James Brown's diva Marva Whitney recorded her response to the Isley Brothers' "It's Your Thing" (the sassy "It's My Thing") in 1969. Out of the multitude of songs released by JB's proteges, "It's My Thing" inspired the most covers. This uptempo, psychedelic cover of the song, by Brazilian supergroup Cry Babies, is probably the weirdest. Unfortunately, it's never been officially reissued.

It Ain't Fair, But It's Fun

The intro gives it away: These Ohio-based high-school students heard JB's "Super Bad" and had to give it a run of their own. They weren't the only high-school band to cover that stuttering classic –- the Kashmere High School Stage Band of Houston also did it on its Thundersoul album, released to the Kashmere students in 1970. But The Fabulous Originals go one step further than Kashmere, upping the ante on Brown's already frantic tune with the infectious enthusiasm that only amateur (but talented) musicians could put forth.

Hot Pants Road

The Boogaloo Combo released two albums on the Brazilian subsidiary of CBS in the early '70s. The albums are chock-full of benign covers of soul, rock and boogaloo songs from the era. But for some reason, the band heard "Hot Pants Road" by Brown's backing band The JB's and decided to one-up it with this driving, expertly executed (if all-too-short) cover.

Related Content

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.