Monday, September 19, 2011

What did Jackie say. . . ?

In 1983 at the age of 50 James Brown reemerged from one of the many doldrums he’d begun to increasingly occupy after his peak days were beginning to flatten out and turn into long lulls with a six song LP called Bring It On. The last track was an homage to himself (natch) and a number of his comrades, both standing and fallen. The tune was “For Your Precious Love” originally recorded by The Impressions, a Top 5 R&B hit in 1958, just about the time James himself was beginning his ascension. James’ version begins with an in-tempo monologue: 

“I’d like to dedicate this song to lovers and the people who got themselves somewhere along the way. I want to remind them that a man has to go back to the crossroads before he finds himself. I want them to know that hurt goes deeper than the skin, it goes to the heart. I just want to thank God for the energy, ’cause I’d like to say to everyone right here. . . .”

and launches into a slow, burning, soulful rendition of “For Your Precious Love” that sounds like it could have been recorded twenty years earlier. Midway through the song he picks up the monologue again, recounting all the big auditoriums he and the Famous Flames performed in in his rise-to-fame days, “the Apollo Theatre, the Regal, the Royal, and the Howard in Washington,” playing to the crowd, seeking that connection that makes it all happen, and he tells us, “I used to look in the front row and I’d see a smiling face down there . . . and maybe somebody in the back would say, “What did Jackie say?” Here James begins his tribute to the great Jackie Wilson, at that moment in a coma and nearing death,

“I’d say, I’d say Jackie said, Jackie said one day, he said, ‘Lawwwwoooooohhhhhh-
ohohoh. . . .’ May God bless you Jackie, you gave us so, so many, so many joyful and beautiful days. . . .”

For Your Precious Love – James Brown – 1983

Text excerpted from The Surfer’s Journal, Vol. 20, No. 2, April-May 2011, p. 65.