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Arts and Entertainment

Tribute to the "Godfather of Soul"
James Brown's band The JBs will perform at West Charlotte High School March 29-30
Published Thursday, March 28, 2013
by Michaela L. Duckett

The music of James Brown in the 1960s through the early ‘80s represented a major shift in the evolution of black music in America and the growing popularity of funk music.


The JBs, a group of musicians that perfored with Brown from 1966 until his death in 2006, will perform at West Charlotte High School March 29 - 30.

So much so that some would say preserving his legacy is akin to musical geniuses like J.S. Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven. Tyrone Jefferson, executive director of A Sign of the Times Carolinas, certainly thinks so.

 A Sign of the Times, a Charlotte-based nonprofit dedicated to the arts, is paying tribute to Brown during its annual Black History production. The celebration will be held March 29 and 30 at West Charlotte High School. This year’s theme is “The History of R&B and Funk.”

 “(Brown) was an instrumental force in changing music primarily in America but in general across the world,” said Jefferson, who was Brown’s musical director for several years. “With Brown, the music became more of a groove instead of the nice melodies we had coming out of Motown and the Philadelphia sound. Mr. Brown gave you a real funky beat with the emphasis on one, and he went to the bridge.”

 Jefferson said Brown’s ingenious approach to music is the reason Billboard magazine crowned him the most sampled artist of all time.

 “Every group that came after him, kind of followed his model, especially with the rhythm,” he said.

 Jefferson said this weekend’s concert will be shrouded in history.

 “We don’t want people to come to the concert thinking about being entertained,” he said. “The concept of entertainment is dead. What we are pushing now is ‘edutainment.’”

 The first set will be performed by Jefferson’s band, A Sign of the Times, and will include an ode to African traditions, church tunes and juke music that influenced Brown’s music.

There will also be performances of the music of Brown’s idol Louis Jordan, Marvin Gaye, the O’Jays, Sly Stone, Earth Wind & Fire and others.

The second set of the night will played by The JBs, a group of musicians that performed with Brown from 1966 to his death in 2006.

Jefferson said there is no one better to help tell Brown’s story than the very musicians who played alongside him.

“His family will tell you that Mr. Brown was closer to his musicians than he was to his own family,” said Jefferson. “We were close.”

 A Sign of the Times Carolinas has held its annual black history production for the past 13 years. This is the first time the organization is paying tribute to Brown.

 Jefferson said he wanted to do a tribute before he lost the opportunity to include original members of The JBs, three of whom have died since 2007.

 “The band is getting older,” he said. “You can’t replace these guys… And I’m watching people die… It’s important to do it this year before we start losing other members of the band.”

 Show times are Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 4 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.asignofthetimes.org.


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