“The One”


Before there was The Moonwalk, there was “The One,James Brown, subject of a new biography by that name by RJ Smith. Writes Janet Maslin in her New York Times book review,

So the reader who knows little of Mr. Brown’s story may not instantly grasp why that story is so mesmerizing. For that reader, three words of advice: “Please, Please, Please.” Just watch the YouTube video of Mr. Brown performing that song in “The T.A.M.I. Show,” the deservedly legendary 1964 concert film so diverse that it also included a performance of “Dance, Dance, Dance” by the Beach Boys.

For starters Mr. Brown’s theatrics will explain why “The One” is this book’s title. It describes but doesn’t come from Mr. Brown’s stature. Instead it denotes his signature emphasis on the first beat in a four-beat measure. “The upbeat is rich, the downbeat is poor,” Mr. Brown said, explaining that tactic in typically cryptic but catchy fashion. He also liked to say that he wore his hair in a big bouffant “so people don’t say where he is, but there he is.”

Here is the performance to which Maslin links. It builds in intensity and showmanship into a frenzy of theatricality and near evangelical election, a wonder. The mixed crowd of young people responds with an equal, sustained frenzy, and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones claimed it was the biggest mistake of the band’s career to have agreed to follow Brown on stage.

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