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THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS: US soul legend James Brown performs on stage during the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Hague, 11 July 2004.
When Godfather of Soul James Brown passed in December 2006, he was hailed as the “most sampled man in the biz”. His showmanship occupies legend status – he and the Famous Flames gave The Rolling Stones a somewhat unintentional smack down in 1964’s T.A.M.I. Show – and his dance moves have provided foundation for the likes of late pop king Michael Jackson. Brown’s name also recalls less positive, personal-life details: he spent time in prison, he abused his women, he struggled with money and addiction to PCP. Yet all these things together – the good and the bad, the music-related and otherwise – have made James Brown an icon: the One whose life and career illuminate so many aspects of 20th-century American history, society, and culture. On Tuesday, August 14th, the Crawford Family Forum held a conversation about James Brown with guest moderator Oliver Wang, Brown biographer RJ Smith, and soul/funk/R&B drummer James Gadson. This program included live performance of some of Brown’s most-sampled drum breaks and a playlist that includes music James Brown made himself and inspired. Smith’s recent The One: The Life and Music of James Brown was also be available for purchase. About the guests: Oliver Wang is an Associate Professor of sociology at Cal State Long Beach, and a contributor to NPR, the LA Times and his own site, Soul-Sides.com RJ Smith has been a senior editor at Los Angeles magazine, a columnist for The Village Voice, and writer/contributor for Blender, Spin, GQ, The New York Times Magazine, and Men’s Vogue. The One is Smith’s second book; his first, The Great Black Way: L.A. in the 1940s and the Lost African-American Renaissance, was a Los Angeles Times bestseller and a California Book Award recipient. James Gadson is a drummer, producer, singer, and songwriter whose prolific career includes working with Bill Withers, Marvin Gaye, Quincy Jones, and Herbie Hancock, among many others. In more recent years, he has played with Beck, Wilco, Feist, and Jamie Lidell.