James Brown is gone at seventy-three, relatively young but still a long time for someone who drove himself to exhaustion in his professional and private life—they chased him through three states, once-- and still held his head high as The Hardest Working Man in Show Business.
He had a good death, if there is such a thing. He’d worked more than 100 shows the last year of his life, celebrated his annual toy give-away for children on Friday, had a cough that worried his dentist on Saturday, entered the hospital with pneumonia Christmas Eve and had slipped away by Christmas Day.
I will always love him for the performances when he was so exhausted by a song, so overcome with emotion he had to helped off the stage, with a friend draping his coat around his shoulders and helping James stagger off under the weight of his loss— but no! He has more to say! He can’t hold back! He throws off their support and staggers back to center stage, falls to his knees, screaming OHBABY PLEASE!— howling his cri de coeur to lost love, still melodic, still heartfelt, still funky, a shriek to make Orpheus and the Bacchantes envy his skill, too much for mortal man, collapsing again, soaked with sweat, lifted again by his crew like a deposition from the cross of human feeling, still trying to sing, staggering off the stage, blind with anguish maybe but each step keeping time with the music...
“Howl, dogs, for a Wolf has died this day.”