The life of James Brown -- Famous friends recall working with Mr. Dynamite

By Clark Collis
Updated January 05, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST

”He was the only one that called band members’ names out on record. That was better than getting paid! The singer always got all the great stuff; the band members got the leftovers. But James Brown, he was right in there with us.”
-Bootsy Collins, Parliament-Funkadelic bassist, member of Brown’s band

”When I met him, the Tom Tom Club had already released ‘Genius of Love,’ which was a tribute. My father said proudly, ‘Mr. Brown, my son made you famous.’ Mr. Brown replied, ‘General Frantz, your son might be a genius, but I was already famous.’ They then proceeded to discuss a certain judge in Augusta, Georgia, who was known to both of them…for different reasons.”
-Chris Frantz, drummer, Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club

”James Brown is the only human being to develop a musical style that didn’t exist before him. He invented funk. The way he orchestrated his music was unusual for that time. A mere flick of the wrist would signify to go to the next song.”
-?uestlove, drummer, the Roots

”It’s very sad about Gerald Ford, but I thought that James might be overshadowed. But I don’t think he was at all. The people at large absolutely gave him respect. He was an original, [like] a Rembrandt or a Picasso.”
-Aretha Franklin

”He opened at least six of our House of Blues clubs. He always delivered, but he demanded the respect [of] an emperor. But, come on, he’s James Brown! I got to play on stage with him. Did he ever fine me? [Brown was known to fine players for flubbing notes or steps.] I would have loved to have been fined by James Brown!”
-Dan Akroyd, Brown’s Blues Brothers costar

”I remember when he’d gotten into a religious state of mind. [Salt-N-Pepa] did this song with one of his beats. To clear the sample, he wanted to hear the lyrical context. It wasn’t a bad song, it was about love and relationships, but I guess it was a little too edgy and he denied us! I was like, ‘Puffy and everybody else used your stuff!’ I think I had to do the song over. But without his beat to it, it didn’t really work.”
-Sandy ”Pepa” Denton, rapper

”James Brown was a true representative of freedom, an iconic rebel who even after struggling with racism, drugs, and incarceration still sustained himself as one of the greatest entertainers and songwriters of all.”
-RZA, rapper, producer

”I had a meeting with him at WBLS in New York. After, [DJ] Frankie Crocker played an album cut of his. James was in a hurry, but he stopped and listened to the whole thing, and then he looked back at me and said, ‘Damn! I’m a bad motherf—er, ain’t I?”’
-Nile Rodgers, producer, Chic guitarist

”Lyrically, he gets the short shrift. No other artist so synthesized the dynamics of the male-and-female sexual relationship. The song ‘Sex Machine’ is outrageous because it brings to mind the mechanics of sex but it’s ambiguous.”
-Vernon Reid, guitarist, Living Colour

”You couldn’t remain seated when you heard his music. He made you dance during times of sorrow. He could make you feel alive.”
-Pam Grier, actress, The L Word

”From the rap artists that [sampled ‘Funky Drummer,’ among others], we never got a penny. Still, it was a joy to be with the musicians and Brown. We had to pay our own bills — room and board and cleaning. But every moment playing with the band was a favorite of mine.”
-Clyde Stubblefield, drummer with Brown’s band

”I presented an award to him this year. He smiled while I told him how much he’s done for us and how I love him. I’m lucky to have had that moment.”
-Nas, rapper

”’The Payback’ is an anthem in South Central L.A. to this day. Maybe the first gang-sta rap song ever.”
-ICE CUBE, rapper, actor, producer

”I went to church the other day and they played ‘We Gonna Have a Funky Good Time.’ For oppressed people, [his music] was the light at the end of the tunnel.”
-Common, rapper