What Can I Say
There have been so many tributes to James Brown lately that there's not much point in going over his career yet again. He was the most important R&B (and soul and funk, etc) artist of all time.
Rather than gush about song after song, let me give just a few impressions.
His earliest stuff alone--"Please, Please, Please," "Try Me," "I'll Go Crazy" and others--would have made him one of the greatest soul shouters of all time.
"Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" changed the face of music, and the follow-up, "I Got You (I Feel Good)" is his signature tune. In fact, it's been so overused it's easy to forget how revolutionary it is. Try to forget about all the bad comedies it's been in and try to listen to it for the first time.
He had a great act, with his wild dancing and the routine where he's being led off and throws off his cape and starts performing again. (Andy Kindler said "he's the hardest working man in show business? He does one song then has to be helped off stage.") He was the last of the big band leaders, but he used his band sparingly, in a percussive, staccato way.
My favorite song of his may be "I Got The Feelin'." Don't let the dropped "G" fool you--he's the only man who's able to get three syllables out of "feeling" ("I got the Fee-lin-uh!")
My other favorite is "It's a Man's Man's Man's World." The lyric is pretty sexist, and yet, somehow, it always touches me.
In 1986, more than a decade after his previous hit, he came out with "Living In America." It might not have been groundbreaking, but it still sounded great.