On this day in music history: November 15, 1985 – “Living In America” by James Brown is released. Written by Dan Hartman and Charlie Midnight, it is the one hundred seventy fifth single release by the R&B music icon from Barnwell, SC. Though respected as one of the most influential musicians of all time, by the 80’s most consider James Brown’s best years to be behind him. The “Godfather Of Soul” lands his last big R&B hit with “Get Up Offa That Thing” in 1976, and on the pop top ten hit with “Say It Loud, I’m Black And I’m Proud”, in 1968. Though managing to stay in the public eye appearing in the films “The Blues Brothers” and “Doctor Detroit”, there is very little else to suggest that he will reclaim any of his former glory. In 1984, Brown duets with Hip Hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa on the single “Unity” (#87 R&B). During this time, Brown is approached by Sylvester Stallone to make an appearance in “Rocky IV”, the fourth installment of the lucrative franchise, and Brown signs on. Originally a member of the Edgar Winter Group in the 70’s, Dan Hartman establishes himself as solo star later in the decade with the disco classics “Instant Replay”, “Vertigo/Relight My Fire” as well as producing singer Loleatta Holloway (“Love Sensation”). Hartman is hired to write a song for the “Rocky IV” soundtrack after scoring his biggest solo hit with “I Can Dream About You” (#6 Pop) from the film “Streets Of Fire”. Hartman and writing partner Charlie Midnight successfully capture Brown’s spirit in the funky up tempo “Living In America”, with James demonstrating that he is still “The Godfather”, even name checking comedian Eddie Murphy, who had lampooned Brown in his stand up act. He performs the song as Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) enters the ring to fight Russian boxer Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). With the film becoming an instant smash during its Thanksgiving weekend release in 1985, “Living In America” gets swept up in the fervor. Issued as the second single from the soundtrack, the song and film help introduce James Brown to a new and younger audience who are unfamiliar with his past work. It gives the singer his biggest hit in many years peaking at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #10 on the R&B chart in early 1986. It also wins Brown a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance in 1987, his first since winning in that category previously in 1966 for “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag”. The success of the song leads him signing with Scotti Brothers Records, the label behind the “Rocky IV Soundtrack”. Also included on the album “Gravity”, James has even greater R&B chart success in 1988 with the follow up “I’m Real” produced by Full Force. That album spins off hits with the title track (#2 R&B) and “Static” (#5 R&B), playing off of Brown’s major influence on rap music, Hip Hop culture and dance music, as his music is being widely sampled. “America” is also parodied by “Weird Al” Yanokovic in 1986 as “Living With A Hernia.
Tammi Terrell performing at the University of Michigan in 1967.
Young, beautiful, vivacious, musically talented Tammi Terrell appeared to have a bright future in the music business in 1967, when she appeared at the University of Michigan’s Hill Auditorium with the Motown Revue. After surviving abusive relationships with James Brown and David Ruffin, she made a series of top 40 duet hits with Marvin Gaye. Sadly, Tammi was diagnosed with brain cancer in 1967, which she succumbed to at the age of 24 in 1970.
Known for her duets with Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell was born Thomasina Montgomery on
April 29, 1945 in Philadelphia. Her younger sister says Tammi was raped by three boys when she only 11 years old. In 1960, she signed to a record label where she recorded a couple of singles. She left that label to sign on with James Brown where she began singing back up in his revue. Even though she was only 17, Tammi became sexually involved
relationship with James who was almost 30. One night on the road Tammi left him after getting mercilessly beaten. In 1963, her first charting single “I Cried” reached #99 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Frustrated with her failure, she decided to quit the music business and enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania where she spent the next two years as a pre-med major.
In 1965, on her 20th birthday, she signed on with Berry Gordy who changed her professional name to Tammi Terrell. During the Motown Revue tour which she opened for The Temptations, Tammi began a volatile relationship with the lead singer David Ruffin. In 1966, David surprised her with a marriage proposal. However, Tammi was devastated once she discovered that he had a wife, three children and another girlfriend in Detroit. This led to them having public fights. It is claimed that Ruffin hit
with a hammer and a machete, though these claims were denied by
Earl Van Dyke, leader of Motown’s Funk Brothers band, recalled David beating up Tammi in the Hitsville building.
Her sister Ludie Montgomery also confirmed a story that Tammi was hit in the face by Ruffin’s motorcycle helmet, leading to the end of their relationship in 1967.
In 1967 Tammi began recording with Marvin Gaye, they a close platonic relationship and the duo released a string of hits including “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Your Precious Love”. While performing live with Marvin at Hampden-Sydney College she collapsed and was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Following the surgery in 1970, Tammi slipped into a coma and died on March 16, just weeks before her 25th birthday.
On this day in music history: October 24, 1962 – “Live At The Apollo” by James Brown & The Famous Flames is recorded. Produced by James Brown, it is recorded at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, NY on October 24, 1962 (midnight performance). Brown records his live show at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, against the advice of King Records chief Syd Nathan who believes a live recording with no new material will not sell. Undaunted, Brown finances the recording himself, hiring a mobile recording unit (recorded completely live to three-track tape with no post production overdubs) to capture the performance. The results are undeniably electric, and upon its release in May of 1963 it creates an immediate sensation. The album exposes James Brown to a wider audience beyond his loyal R&B fan base, selling over a million copies in the US alone. In spite of its long standing popularity, the album is not released on CD until 1990. The original first generation stereo master tapes were lost for many years between the time when ownership of Brown’s masters are transferred from King to Polydor Records. The only accessible tapes before then, were second and third generation dubs deemed unsuitable for remastering. Jazz archivist Phil Schaap finds the missing tapes in the Polygram tape vault in Edison, NJ in early 1990, while doing research for another project. Following its 1990 CD debut, it is remastered and reissued by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab in 1993, using the original 1962 “wide” stereo mix, rather than the stereo mixes used for the Polydor CD. The album is remastered and reissued in 2004 with four additional bonus, including the single versions of “Think”, “I’ll Go Crazy” and “Lost Someone”. Out on print on vinyl for decades, it is finally reissued as a 180 gram LP in 2008. “Live At The Apollo” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1998, and in 2004, the album is added to the National Recording Registry by The Library Of Congress, as being regarded as culturally and historically important. “Live At The Apollo” peaks at number two on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: October 12, 1974 – “Papa Don’t Take No Mess (Part 1)” by James Brown hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #31 on the Hot 100 on September 28, 1974. Written by James Brown, Fred Wesley, John Starks and Charles Bobbit, it is the seventeenth and final R&B chart topper for “The Godfather Of Soul”. After scoring the blaxploitation cult classics “Black Caesar” and “Slaughter’s Big Rip Off” in 1973, James Brown is asked by the film producers of “Caesar” to write music for the sequel “Hell Up In Harlem”. Brown and his band The JB’s enter the studio in the Summer of 1973 to record the soundtrack. Among the songs written for the film is “Papa Don’t Take No Mess”, recorded at International Studios in Augusta, GA on August 23, 1973. The producers of “Hell Up In Harlem” end up rejecting Brown’s music, feeling “it’s more of same”, and instead hire Motown staff songwriters Freddie Perren and Fonce Mizell (of “The Corporation”) to score the film instead. James Brown takes his rejected soundtrack music, and releases it as the follow up to “The Payback” album in June of 1974. “Papa Don’t Take No Mess” is chosen as the second single from the double album titled “Hell” in August of 1974. The nearly fourteen minute long track (taking up the entire fourth side of the album) is edited down significantly, and split into two parts for single release. “Papa Don’t Take No Mess” is the singers’ third consecutive R&B chart topper in 1974 following “The Payback” and “My Thang”. It becomes one of Brown’s most popular and frequently sampled songs, later forming the basis of Janet Jackson’s chart topping single “That’s The Way Love Goes” in 1993.
On this day in music history: October 5, 1968 – “Say It Loud, I’m Black And I’m Proud (Part 1)” by James Brown hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 5 weeks, also peaking at #10 on the Hot 100 on October 19, 1968. Written by James Brown and Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis, it is the seventh R&B chart topper for “The Hardest Working Man In Show Business”. Deeply affected by the loss of Dr. Martin Luther King, Brown is inspired to write the song as a rebuke against racial prejudice and as a positive message of self empowerment and upward mobility. It becomes an anthem for the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements in the US. Recorded at Vox Studios in Los Angeles, CA on August 7, 1968, Brown invites a group of thirty young girls and boys from near by Watts and Compton into the studio to perform on the songs call and response chorus. The single is also the first to include new trombone player Fred Wesley who becomes a key member of James Brown’s band for many years. “Say It Loud” ironically is also Brown’s last US Top 10 pop single for nearly eighteen years until “Living In America” (#10 R&B, #4 Pop) in March of 1986. The song is later sampled by Rodney O & Joe Cooley on their single “Say It Loud” in 1990. References to Brown’s song are also made by Funkadelic on their song “Let’s Take It To The Stage”, and The Temptations’ “Message From The Black Man”. “Say It Loud” is also referenced on an episode of “The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air” and in the film “The Commitments”. With the release of the box set “Star Time!” in 1991, “Say It Loud” is remixed by DJ and producer The Epitome Of Scratch (Son Of Bazerk, Ice Cube, Intelligent Hoodlum, Slick Rick), and features rap verses by Professor X of X-Clan on the track. It is released as both a promotional and commercial 12" single.
On this day in music history: October 2, 1971 – “Make It Funky (Part 1)” by James Brown hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 2 weeks, also peaking at #22 on the Hot 100 on the same date. Written by James Brown and Charles Bobbitt, it is the eleventh R&B chart topper for “The Godfather Of Soul”. Brown collaborates on the song with his manager Charles Bobbitt (“Give It Up, Or Turnit A Loose”). Recorded in July 1971 at Rodel Studios in Washington DC, it is the first single featuring the revamped line up of Brown’s backing band The JB’s. Hearlon “Cheese” Martin and Fred Thomas take over the rhythm guitar and bass chairs in the band after the departure of William “Bootsy” Collins and Phelps “Catfish” Collins who join up with George Clinton’s Parliament/Funkadelic organization. The single also Brown’s first release on Polydor Records, following his fifteen year stint at Federal/King Records. All of his catalog also goes with him to his new label. The latter portions of the song, not released in the original two parts are issued as “My Part/Make It Funky” (#68 R&B), also known as parts 3 and 4 are also released on the album “Get On The Good Foot” in November of 1972. Like many of his hits, Brown continues to alter the arrangement of “Make It Funky” when performing it live.
On this day in music history: September 9, 1967 – “Cold Sweat Pt. 1” by James Brown hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 3 weeks, also peaking at #7 on the Hot 100 on August 26, 1967. Written by James Brown and Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis, it is the fifth R&B chart topper for “The Hardest Working Man In Show Business”. The song is originally written in 1962, but is re-recorded and given a dramatic re-arrangement after Brown hears “Funky Broadway”, the recent hit single by Wilson Pickett. The track is recorded at King Studios in Cincinnati, OH in May of 1967, and is the first session for engineer Ron Lenhoff who becomes Brown’s recording engineer for the next eight years, recording and mixing numerous hits for “The Godfather Of Soul”. The extended workout runs over seven minutes in its entirety, but is edited and split into two parts for single release. “Cold Sweat” marks the beginning of a major turning point in the evolution of R&B music, being the first record to introduce the sub genre known as Funk. By putting more emphasis on the rhythmic aspects of the song, rather than the melody, it is regarded as one of the most influential records ever released. Released as single in July, “Cold Sweat” climbs the R&B and pop charts quickly. Ironically, it is replaced at the top of the R&B charts by Wilson Pickett’s “Funky Broadway”, the very song that inspired James Brown to create “Cold Sweat”.
After escaping an abusive relationship with James Brown, Tammi began a volatile relationship with the lead singer David Ruffin in 1965. In 1966, David surprised her with a marriage proposal.
However, when she announced her engagement to David on stage he became upset. Tammi was devastated once she discovered that he had a wife, three children and another girlfriend in Detroit. This led to them having public fights. Tammi was portrayed in the Temptations movie during the Motown picnic scene. It is claimed that
with a hammer and/or a machete, though these claims were denied by
Tammi’s family. Earl Van Dyke, leader of Motown’s Funk Brothers band, recalled David beating up Tammi at the Motown Hitsville headquarters. Her sister Ludie Montgomery also confirmed a story that Tammi was hit in the face by Ruffin’s motorcycle helmet, leading to the end of their relationship in 1967. Tammi went on to record classic duets with Marvin Gaye, but she unfortunately died from a brain tumor at the age of 24 in 1970. David died of a drug overdose in 1991.