Like every year around the holidays, attention is once again given to Christmas music. This time the main subject is The Godfather Of Soul, Soul Brother No. 1, The Hardest Working Man in Show Business and Mr. Dynamite: James Brown.
Initially James Brown didn’t like (the idea of) Christmas very much, and therefore didn’t like the concept of Christmas albums. He didn’t remember Christmas fondly: I never got toys for Christmas. My father would give me some new clothes and a dollar. I was never allowed to be a kid. Yet, he did release 3 Christmas albums over the course of 6 years: James Brown And His Famous Flames Sing Christmas Songs was the first. That album was released in 1966. Two years later that was followed by A Soulful Christmas. In 1970 he released Hey America. Those three albums and a single combined make up all the Christmas music James Brown released. All of his Christmas music was released as part of a beautiful compilation in 2010: The Complete James Brown Christmas.
Slowly Brown’s attitude towards Christmas started to change. He started to celebrate the holiday at home in his hometown of Augusta, Georgia in the US. His home decorations were so well-known and popular that people queued up to get a glimpse of them. It was the first time a black Santa Claus was on display. When decorations started to get lost, it was over.Brown never forgot that Christmas didn’t give him what he had hoped for. During the later years of his life Brown handed out Christmas gifts to all the kids that were born into the lower income families in ‘his’ town. After Brown died, his daughter carried on this great tradition.
But the greatest connection Brown has with Christmas was the date of his passing: he died of the first day of Christmas, 2006, 73 years old.
James Brown Sings Christmas Songs
In 1966 Brown had just renewed his contract with King Records. He was a rising star. Songs like It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World and I Got You (I Feel Good) turned into hits. For the first time Brown went into the studio working under his new contract. A rather remarkable detail is that these recordings introduced his new drummer: Clyde Stubblefield, who would become the most sampled drummer of all time.
- Let’s Make Christmas Mean Something This Year
- Sweet Little Baby Boy (Part 1 & 2)
- Merry Christmas, I Love You
- Signs of Christmas
- The Christmas Song (Version 2)
- Merry Christmas Baby
- The Christmas Song (Version 1)
- Please Come Home for Christmas
- This Is My Lonely Christmas (Parts 1 & 2)
- Christmas In Heaven
A Soulful Christmas
His second album was recorded in two days in 1968. The album was prepared by Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis and Hank Ballard. At first, Brown didn’t seem too enthusiastic about the endeavor, but as the session progressed he got more and more into it. Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto in particular moved Brown. He ended those recordings with tears in his eyes.
The album was supplemented with the full versions of Say It Loud – I’m Black And I’m Proud (Parts 1 & 2), which weren’t available on any other album.
That year Brown delivered Christmas dinner at 3,000 impoverished households in New York City.
- Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto
- Santa Claus, Santa Claus
- Believers Shall Enjoy (Non Believers Shall Suffer)
- Soulful Christmas
- Tit for Tat (Ain’t No Taking Back)
- Christmas is Coming
- Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud (Parts 1 & 2)
- In the Middle (Part 1)
- Let’s Unite the Whole World at Christmas
- You Know It
- Santa Claus Gave Me a Brand New Start
After releasing the single It’s Christmas Time in 1969, his third and final Christmas album followed in 1970. It was his least successful Christmas album and had little to do with where he was at musically at the time.
- Hey America
- A Lonely Little Boy Around One Little Christmas Toy
- Go Power At Christmas Time
- Christmas Is Love
- Santa Claus Is Definitely Here to Stay
- My Rapp
- I’m Your Christmas Friend, Don’t Be Hungry
- Merry Christmas My Baby and a Very, Very Happy New Year
The Complete James Brown Christmas
This compilation was released in 2010 and contained the albums and the 1969 single It’s Christmas Time. The compilation also contains alternate mixes of album songs.
The compilation really deserves its title. Highly recommended!
This album contains all the songs of the three albums mentioned above, in chronological order. Only the extra songs are shown below.
- It’s Christmas Time (Part 1) (Non-LP Single)
- It’s Christmas Time (Part 2) (Non-LP Single)
- You Know It (Single Version)
- Believers Shall Enjoy (Non Believers Shall Suffer) (Single Version)
- Hey America (Sing Along Version – previously unreleased stereo version)
- Santa Claus Is Definitely Here To Stay (Single Version)
- Santa Claus Is Definitely Here To Stay (Sing Along Version – previously unreleased stereo version)
What do you think of James Brown’s Christmas recordings? Funky? Let me know!
James Brown – Funky Christmas – Header image: wegottickets.com
James Brown James Brown celebrates Christmas at Augusta, Georgia image: wrdw.com
James Brown – James Brown And His Famous Flames Sing Christmas Songs, James Brown – A Soulful Christmas, James Brown – Hey America en James Brown – The Complete James Brown Christmas images: spotify.com
James Brown – Funky Christmas – Footer image: drunkenbunny.wordpress.com