You are going to read a ton of stuff over the couple of weeks about what kind of titanic presence James Brown was in 20th Century Music. And that stuff is absolutely correct. So I want to discuss another aspect of the man’s career. James Brown was one of the first American artists to understand — and more importantly, harness — the power of the mass media to brand himself in the public mind.
I would argue that while James Brown was a ground-breaking musician — and make no mistake, he was as important as Miles or Marley or Dylan or The Beatles — “James Brown” is an all-time icon: a bigger-than-life figure who will now be bigger-than-death.
In a day where even the humblest indie musician has a website and a MySpace page, the way that James Brown transformed himself into a gigastar for the ages is equally as awesome as “Cold Sweat” or “Sex Machine.”