(02/27/2015) POEM: MR. DYNAMITE

Posted: February 27, 2015 in America, Amusements, History
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

As Black History Month, 2015 draws to its close, I share another original poem acknowledging the incredible talent of arranger, composer, singer, live theater producer and performing artist, music record producer, and broadcast media owner, the Father of Funk, James Joseph Brown.  James Brown was among the many gifted black performers who transformed America’s popular culture, and created the music that further tore down the barriers of segregation.  Where once Brown could appear only on the “chittlin’ circuit” featuring five theaters showcasing entertainers within Negro communities (the Royal, Baltimore, MD; the Howard, DC; the Apollo, Harlem, NYC; the Regal, Chicago, IL; and the Earl, Philadelphia, PA), James Brown would later become one of the headline acts featured in Las Vegas, NV.  At one time Brown employed 40-50 people in his James Brown Revue; and performed some 330 one-nighters within a single year.

 

MR. DYNAMITE

[A Black History Memoir, 2015]


Part 1:  THERE WAS A TIME

A culture is more than what a people suffer
It’s also how and when they may rejoice
What it is that shines like wisdom, understanding
The trail they blaze for those yet to be born
The merit they will add to the efforts made by others
The treasures that they keep by choice
The light within their soul that they give voice


A heritage is what a people live in spite of trial
Beset by darkness, climbing to the heights
Fixing their gaze upon excellence
Training like those who enter the ring
Throwing bombs like Joe Lewis
Remaining unspoiled, impressing even whites
Jabbing and hooking, his lightning lefts and rights


Accomplishing survival, pursuing after change
Finding that companion who would heal
Learning to smile as a way of overcoming
Being smart enough, tough enough never to quit
To carry the burdens of love and purpose
To show yourself, the depth of all you feel
Guarding your heart, and still being for real


A merry heart doeth good like a medicine
So we indulged the madness of the days
We heard Cab, and Duke, and Lunceford
And self-taught Satchel Mouth who broke the mold
The musicianship of Nat King Cole
An array of talent, polished, worthy of praise
They said would never last, “its just a craze”


We knew would last forever, because they served
As a solid wall against the lonely nights
And the tossing, turning dreams of post-war equality
Accumulated day by day, paid for with our
Blood, sweat and tears
Shutting out the insults and the slights
Proving the dog that’s unafraid to bark is one that bites


For there were unintended benefits
Surrounded by our haters
Black organizations and institutions were maintained
Through hard work and careful use of money
We developed our own radio
Newspapers and theaters
And established places for those who were outstanding as creators


Where we could evoke an era
Placing a man in the context of his times
Not capturing every detail, yet, savoring his genius
Correctly splashing the canvass with broad strokes
Forbidden to paint a Black Caesar up in Harlem
Selling excitement for nickels and for dimes
A leader called to quell rioting and self-destructive crimes


Part 2:  MONEY WON’T CHANGE YOU

Because music is a lifeline, rhythm became our speech
Big Bands gave way to Rock and Roll
Street singer Doo-Wop became the cool
Where our value once was from our hands and backs
We honed our ability to tell a story through a song
Created a path from poverty that gave us more control
And America began to hear a music from the soul


The best began to set our minds on fire
With lessons for our hearts that challenged pride
We found the turmoil in our lives had meaning
Despite our limitations we could soar
For they performed by burning down the house
We no longer had to cringe and hide
We discovered we had wealth hidden inside


We crowned Jerry Butler the Ice Man
And we heard confession in a lover’s pleas
Because when he would sing, Your Precious Love
Humility and passion were in power
Before we could detect a change or move
He was melting by degrees
And when the song crescendoed he was singing from his knees


We called Aretha Franklin Natural Woman
The Queen of Soul whose messages were plain
To reach the goal of love that lasts forever
You have to dig down deep for buried treasures
With courage give yourself and only take
The risk of heartache, tears that stain
Ain’t no way to have its pleasure without also having its pain


We called James Brown The King of Soul
Who would not just entertain, the man would thrill
In the long line of American stars and showmen
JB was undisputed, far above them all
The circus, movies, Broadway, Wild West action
Compared to Barnum, Berkeley, Ziegfeld, Buffalo Bill
A Black man had more savvy and more skill


The Godfather of Soul compiled a list
Of hits, chart toppers, million-seller gold
There Was a Time, Bewildered, Think
Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag
Out of Sight, It’s a Man’s Man’s World
Try Me, the early successes, bold
The half of it just ain’t been told


The Payback, If You Leave Me I’ll Go Crazy
The curtain parted, and from the time you were seated
You would be showered with the fantastic
Everyone around you could feel the same affection
And we held what they were sharing as priceless
We never left feeling betrayed or cheated
Or that we ourselves could ever be defeated


Part 3.  NIGHT TRAIN

We only ever saw perfection raw, incredible
Before the day of the Elvis imitator
Tina Turner was called The Female James Brown
There was Little Royal and Lee Fields
Who sought to match him stroke for stroke
And wowed us honoring the innovator
And made it clear, there was none greater


Yeah, it was after work, and on the weekends
We didn’t just go to sit and see a show
We went to discover what others had gathered
In a world we knew was wider than our own
For our entertainers were welcome across the globe
All the places we could never go
Because we were still oppressed by ole Jim Crow


James Brown made you a traveler
His speaking voice was rasping and gritty
He punctuated almost every song
with moans, or shrieks and squeals
That some called screams, he appeared on stage
Immaculate, and sharp, dressed for every city
And would drive the band showing them no pity


He’d first come out in a tuxedo accented green
And dazzle the room with moves that were tight
And fly, then blow the girls a gentle kiss
And toss the crowd his soaked bow tie
The sweat in torrents like the rain
Rushing, giggling with delight
Someone would have a souvenir that night


In less time than we all could count to ten
He’d leave the stage, go off and make a change
Come back now wearing rhinestones set in blue
Accented with black and silver frets
Refreshed from head to toe, all clean and dry
The spotlight would reflect from off of his “do”
And sparkle from his patent leather shoe


We believed that Brown had played before the crowned heads of Europe
Had conquered meeting every trial and test
We had many names for the drummer
Who played jazz upon the organ and
Like David danced before the Lord with all his might
The Hardest Working Man In Show Business
Performing non-stop without a break or rest
And showing Black America had the best


We called him The Prisoner of Love
Soul Brother Number One
The children of the 70’s and 80’s were born
In a crucible he set ablaze
Because he connected to their parents
Who started out just looking to have fun
And felt they too could “say it loud” before the man was done


Part 4.  SUPERBAD

Brown would sound the “All aboard”
The Brownettes and Flames would hit the step in line
When you thought the show was winding down
Bobby Byrd would pitch in a baseball scene
With everyone dancing the strike out
A joyful celebration of life would erupt
That would be sweeter than cherry wine
And would tingle every spine


Again and again Brown would explode
Lighting everybody’s fuse
Without sorcery or witchcraft
He transformed the consciousness of every viewer
Performing Cold Sweat, Livin’ in America, Gravity
Oh Baby Don’t You Weep, paying dues
A black rainbow in motion changing hues


In the Land of a Thousand Dances
The troupe would go to work
They would Shotgun, do the Underdog
The Hitchhike and the Twist
The Popeye and the Puppet
Mickey’s Monkey, and the Jerk
Break out into the Boogaloo, and the fans would go berserk


He’d begin the show with a pompadour
A style of processed hair
Where lye would burn to make eyes turn
That became wild and disheveled right away
On one leg he would dance across the entire length of stage
Jaws would drop, and Brown would dare
To challenge even Fred Astaire


Some would jump up from their seats
start dancing in the aisle
The energies of youth and full abandon
Unafraid to be seen or heard in public
Shyness and timidity checked at the door
There was not a face within the place
That did not have a smile
Applauding Mr. Dynamite’s amazing grace and style


Brown was the star who would glimmer and flame
Introducing effects with black light
Florescent beams and stroboscopic streams
The night train would rumble by
You would listen to hear the conductor say the name of your hometown
And he’d speak it to your delight
Rippling like Edison photographs to every viewers sight


Falling to his knees in exhaustion
Bobby would help James limp across the floor
Carrying his suitcase and sobbing
he would tremble, wail and shake
We all would sing along, Please, Please, don’t go
He’d leap up to his feet, throw off his cape
And continue his song of love giving us more
And finally “forced” to leave the stage, the crowd would howl and roar

Signature Mark

©Michael Andrew Williams, 2015.  All rights reserved worldwide.

THE BLACK PHOENIX
Washington, DC

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