(Soundbite of song, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag")
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
If you've been anywhere near a radio today, chances are you've heard one of his hits, along with the news that James Brown, the godfather of soul, the hardest working man in show business, has died.
He was being treated at an Atlanta hospital for pneumonia when his heart failed early this morning. He was 73.
Though he had trouble with drugs and alcohol and the law, James Brown is being remembered today as a man who changed American music.
(Soundbite of song, "I Feel Good")
SIEGEL: And he did it with the help of Maceo Parker, among others. Parker played with Brown's band during the 1960s and '70s. In fact, you can hear his sax playing on this big hit. You can also hear his voice on other songs, along with the rest of the band, shouting back and forth with Brown.
Mr. MACEO PARKER (Saxophone Player): When he says hit it, you know, it's automatic that you say, yeah. Fellas, hey. Hit it. C'mon. Yeah. But I feel good. Da nah nah nah nah nah nah, yeah. And I think that was his horn line, too. Because that's what he did. He would hear stuff. You know, he would hear a phrase like pop, and then, you know, he'd dictate it us or the guy who's in charge of the band and say, I feel good. And the band goes da da da da da da da. I knew that I would. Da da da da da. So good. Bop bop. Good. Bop.
You could hear all that, you know, before we even start playing.
SIEGEL: If you had one image of James Brown in your mind performing during one particular song, what is it? What's the one that most enduring for you?
Mr. PARKER: Well, it's probably one of those up tempo things where he does the very fast dancing and he's just, you know, kind of getting and doing all kinds of splits, and all kinds of turns and tricks with the microphones and all that.
SIEGEL: There was - what was it - there was a part of the act where he would -at one time, he would have like a king's robe placed on him and collapse on stage.
Mr. PARKER: Right.
SIEGEL: He seemed to have some great sense of humor about what he was doing up there. Or do I have that wrong?
Mr. PARKER: Well, it was all entertainment or entertaining to him. But the robe idea was at the very, very end, he's doing please, please, please, this is slow kind of a song with a backbeat. And you know, okay, Mr. Brown, you worked your show, and this signifies the end. We're going to bring the robe and drape it over your shoulders and sort of dry your face a little bit, just to signify you're - that's it, you've accomplished another show.
But he's so into it, you know, like he's walk off the stage and all of a sudden, he throws the robe off and rush back out to the center stage, and sing some more, and some more screams and maybe some more turns and splits and fall down on the stage and screams. And ran into the microphone, and the guy right back and forth second time. Pat him on the back, okay, Mr. Brown, that's it. You've done well. You've done really, really good. Here's the robe again, and come on now, it's time to go back to a dressing room, and the show has ended, and he sort of goes along with that for a while, then he starts off the stage. Okay, okay, okay, that's it. Then they say please, please, off the stage, off the stage.
Then all of a sudden he's into it again. He's into it again. He knocks the robe off again for the third time. Rush back out and scream some more, and people just go crazy about that.
SIEGEL: I like you to talk about something that he recorded in 1968. Back in 1968, certainly most white people in America used the word Negro.
Mr. PARKER: Yeah.
SIEGEL: And some people were starting to say Afro American.
Mr. PARKER: Right.
SIEGEL: Or African American.
Mr. PARKER: Right.
SIEGEL: And some people were starting to say black.
Mr. PARKER: Yeah.
SIEGEL: Some people say James Brown settled that question.
Mr. PARKER: Oh, yeah. Up until then, see it's like -it was apparent that wait a minute, that's as a society, we are black people. And again there was a time when, you know, somebody called you black was almost, wait a minute now, what are you saying? I'm not sure if I like that. How are you saying it - it sounds like derogatory kind of thing or - and you know, because of James Brown bringing it to the forefront or different kind of concept of the fact that they're white people. They're black people. Red people, and so on and so on, so on, depending on what your color is. Say it loud. I am black and proud. And he's right.
SIEGEL: That statement really resounded through the country, of course.
Mr. PARKER: Yeah. Exactly. As well as all the music that he did, but say it loud. I'm black and I'm proud. You know, he taught pride. And he just preached pride all the time. You know, decorum, the way you dress, your mannerisms, things that you, you know, like respect yourselves and all these things. That's what he preached, that's all the time. And I'm proud, you know, to have been there, to be part of that recording.
SIEGEL: Well, Maceo Parker, thank you very much for talking with us about James Brown, and you played sax for him, too, has died.
Mr. PARKER: It's my pleasure. Thank you.
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