The American legend, who died March 18 at age 90, endured racism even as he seemed to transcend skin color and struggled to enjoy his genius even as he enshrined fun in pop music. And, oh yeah — he definitely invented rock’n’roll.
I come not to remind you, in case it's somehow slipped your mind, that Australian-born rapper Iggy Azalea is the first artist to place his, her or their first Hot 100 singles at Nos. 1 and 2 simultaneously since the damn Beatles. I come to inform you that, like the damn Beatles, she's put together a damn good album, engaging front to back.
In his 2006 Rolling Stone profile "Being James Brown," the great lost rock critic Jonathan Lethem made sense of the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, the Minister of Super Heavy Funk, the Augusta Akhenaten, and all the other honorifics Mr. Brown has and will earn by declaring him a time traveler. Hence, 1958's "Night Train" and 1965's "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" and 1967's "Cold Sweat" all prefigured the super heavy funk that would take over black popular music in the early '70s‑-whereupon Brown elected to prefigure gangsta rap with 1973's "The Payback." Hence also his decision to re-record 1971's "Soul Power" in 2005, all the while exclaiming that he wanted to kiss himself as if the possibility had never before occurred to him.
Anyone wondering how that guy who grades albums like a damn college professor got a column in the bible of the music business should consider one factoid. At 72, that guy has been covering what we'll call rock and roll longer than anyone in America: 47 years, and not bored for five minutes running unless you count three-four hundred terrible opening acts.