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Monday, December 25, 2006

Breaking news: The Godfather of Soul dies at 73

The Associated Press is reporting sad news this Christmas morning: Soul Brother No. 1, the Hardest-Workin' Man in Show Business, The Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown, died early this morning at an Atlanta hospital after a bout with pneumonia. He was 73.

I was tempted to write "God rest his soul."

But you know it and I know it: If there's one thing James Brown ain't never gonna do, it's rest.

Right now, J.B. is probably up there doing a command performance on Christmas Day for the heavenly hosts.

He's got on one of those sequined stretch-polyester suits, his hairdo is perfect, and he's up there doing spins and those unbelievable splits as he does Papa's Got a Brand New Bag. You know James is on "the good foot." And every few minutes someone comes out and brings him a handkerchief and wipes the sweat off his brow while he's still dancing.

And nobody could dance like James Brown.

Oh, they tried. I remember Michael Jackson spinnin' round and flipping that microphone stand back and forth with his feet in about '84 on the Grammy Awards telecast. My mother -- who owned original 45's of both Please Please Please and Papa's Got a Brand New Bag -- and I watched it together in our Warrenton living room, and commented that Michael clearly was in the James Brown mold. And afterward, some people said, "Michael is the next James Brown."

But they were wrong. He might have wanted to be James Brown, but there was only one. Same thing goes for Prince, too, in my book. James Brown never changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol. He didn't have to. He was the Godfather of Soul. Who would give that name up?

In my hometown, where I used to stay
The name of the place is Augusta G-A
Down there, we have a good time -- we don't talk
We all get together, in any type of weather, and we do The Camel Walk.
- Lyrics from James Brown's
'There Was a Time'

I've written here before on various prominent people who hail from East Georgia, and James will easily wind up being the most famous person ever from Augusta. Sure, there are other people from Augusta who made names for themselves: President Woodrow Wilson spent several years of his childhood in Augusta, and opera fans know the city as the hometown of diva Jessye Norman.

Sure, President Wilson started the League of Nations, but I'm sure he couldn't dance worth a flip. And I'll bet James, if he had put his mind to it, could have done the world's funkiest version of Aida, so funky that old man Verdi would have boogied right out of his grave.

I got to see James in concert once -- in, of all places, New York City, at Radio City Music Hall. (Irony: James Brown and I were from the same town -- he grew up in Augusta, and I was born there -- and I had to go 1,000 miles to see him in concert.) James was about 60 then, but he still rocked the place. And afterward it dawned on me why people called him "The Hardest-Workin' Man in Show Business": A thousand white people from New York -- who were about as far removed from being poor and black in the Depression Era-Deep South as the Earth is to the moon - had paid $30 each to see and pay homage to this man who had once shined shoes on the streets of downtown Augusta. Talented, absolutely he was, but going out on stage and being James Brown undoubtedly was hard work, too.

A couple of random thoughts:

+ I remember when James first went to jail back in the '80s. Clyde Wells, the Augusta Chronicle's longtime editorial cartoonist, had a picture in the next day's paper of James wearing a ball and chain and holding a sledgehammer, clearly sentenced to hard labor, and bore the caption "The Godfather of Rock!" I can't find that picture online anywhere via Google, but if you know where it is, please send us a link.

+ Lest we not forget how hard it could be to sometimes understand what James was saying: I saw a snippet of a comedian's performance one night on Comedy Central a few years ago. The comedian said he he'd been on a flight and wound up in a seat next to James Brown, of whom he was a huge fan, and the two men chatted the entire flight. As soon as he got off the plane, he ran to a pay phone and called his father. "Dad!" he said. "I just sat next to James Brown on the plane!"

"That's great, son!" the father said. "What did you two talk about?"

Replied the son, "I have no idea!"

+ For many years the morning crew at WBBQ radio in Augusta had a snippet of a recording they played -- for humorous effect, of course -- of James saying "I don't know." They used it usually after posing a joke question, and before they gave away the punchline. When I brought James' Twenty All-Time Greatest Hits compilation CD several years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the familiar snippet is taken from the spoken-word intro to the song Make it Funky -- one of the band members asks James what he wants to play next, and James responds, "Bobby, I don't know" -- but whatever it is, he says, make it funky.

+ We can't end this discussion without recalling Eddie Murphy's impression of James Brown in the early '80s on Saturday Night Live. "James" was hosting a talk show -- James Brown's Celebrity Hot Tub Party. The best part of the sketch was the end, where we see a still shot of James in the tub with his next guest, Dr. Joyce Brothers. Despite the recent news that YouTube was clamping down on copyrighted material, as of this second you can find the entire two-minute sketch on their site at this link.

+ Remember Livin' in America? It was one of James' last big pop hits, and it was on the soundtrack to Rocky IV. The LP version, which was longer than the single version, included an extra bridge where James shouted, "Eddie Murphy, eat your heart out!" (Some coincidences: There's a new Rocky movie coming out soon, and Eddie Murphy has a major dramatic role in the new film version of Dreamgirls coming out soon.)

+ Wikipedia has a picture of the James Brown statue in downtown Augusta.

+ James' page at the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame Web site (inducted 1986)

In closing, another song lyric:

There was a time -- sometimes I dance,

Sometimes I dance, and sometimes I clown,

But you can bet, you haven't seen nothin' yet

Until you've seen me do The James Brown.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

These doughnuts don't have any glaze on 'em ...

I saw a bagel for the first time my first week of college. I'd never seen a bagel, eaten a bagel, or heard of anyone I knew eating a bagel. To this day, I've never seen anyone in Warrenton ever eat a bagel or heard of anyone in Warrenton eating a bagel. But sure enough, the reach of consumerism is all-powerful: You can buy 'em in the freezer case at the Thomson Wal-Mart.

New Aflac duck commercial coming out on New Year's Day

The duck commercials are extremely popular in my family, and my personal favorite is the one with Yogi Berra in the barbershop ("They give you cash, which is just as good as money"). The duck morphs into a superduck in the next commercial, the Atlanta paper says.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Braves' calling crew shunted to radio

Pete van Wieren will call Braves games only on radio next year, and Skip Caray will do darn few TV games, the Atlanta paper says.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Sisters are doin' it for themselves - and on coins!

The Mint plans a new series of coins featuring the likenesses of America's first ladies. But don't get your hopes too high - they'll be on collectors-only coins that will cost major bucks.

Atlantic Records founder Ertegun dies

Ahmet Ertegun, a giant in the music industry who started Atlantic Records, has died at 83. Atlantic recorded Georgia's own Ray Charles and Otis Redding, along with everyone from Lady Soul herself to Crosby Stills & Nash to Led Zepplin. (Link goes to the New York Times story; free registration is required.)

Sheriff's deputy charged with inmate sexual assault

Deputy Dewayne Wood has been fired after being charged with sexual assault of a female inmate he was supposed to be taking to jail, as well as with possessing prescription diet pills. (Honest disclosure here: Sheriff Joe Peebles is my dad.) Links to Augusta Chronicle story, WDRW-Channel 12 story.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Warrenton sleet and the Emanuel County Iditarod

It sleeted today in Warrenton due to the cold front that has come in, sources there tell me. Meanwhile, word has it that points south of Warrenton, including Swainsboro, could get some snow. Time to tell those sled dogs to mush toward to the Point Hole.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Mint rolling out new presidential series of $1 dollar coins

Just like how they've rolled out the quarters with states on them, they're going to do presidents on $1 coins now. Speaking of which, does anyone ever see the Sacajawea dollar these days? (Link goes to NY Times story.)

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Mom gets five years in toddlers' drowning

Lottie Payne was found guilty by a jury in a little under an hour, The Chronicle says.

Parents take stand in child-drowning case

Lottie Payne says she had only gone to the bathroom when the kids got out that day, The Chronicle reports. Meanwhile, Dennis Payne says it's the city's fault the children drowned, and he intends to sue the city; and an expert says Lottie Payne is borderline mentally retarded and suffered extensive mental and physical abuse, including being prostituted by her own mother as a child. (Link goes to The Chronicle, where free registration is required.)

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Mother of drowned children breaks down at trial

Lottie Payne is on trial on charges that she was negligent in the deaths of her two toddler children, who drowned in a Warrenton sewage treatment pond. (Link goes to the Macon Telegraph site.)

Group sex alleged in trial for mom whose two kids drowned

Lottie Kain, whose two children drowned in a Warrenton sewage pond, is on trial this week. (Link goes to Augusta Chronicle story).

Monday, September 18, 2006

Small Mississippi town digs up its dirt-covered swimming pool

Some folks in Stonewall, Miss., are digging out the remains of the old city swimming pool and plan to reopen it, The New York Times says. I always heard that the Warrenton city pool at the park downtown -- now covered in grass, with just the concrete rim showing -- was closed in a similar fashion, as a means to prevent racial integration years ago (though I admit I wasn't alive then and have no proof as to whether that's accurate).

I remember running around the concrete rectangle with my classmates at Miss Sue's Wee Wisdom Kindergarten. I think the object of the game was to chase each other on the concrete and not step by accident into the grass center.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Clipper subscriptions available through Amazon.com

Just found this online and had to post it -- you can get your loved one a gift subscription to The Warrenton Clipper through, of all places, Amazon.com. Now, I haven't tried it, so I can't speak to how well it works, but if you're looking for that unique gift this Christmas and you're doing your shopping online, maybe it's a thought.

Unfamiliar feeling on Thomson Highway

Just got back a couple of days ago from a visit to Warrenton, and they have finished work on the Thomson Highway by Georgia-Pacific -- and it's the most unfamiliar feeling. They've filled in the part where the road went under the trestle, and now the roadbed is level with the train tracks, and crossing arms are supposed to stop traffic when the train comes through.

After 32 years of life going under the tracks, not over them, it's a strange and disorienting feeling to drive over the tracks and see how the topography has been altered. I'm not saying I'm for it or against it -- it's just unfamiliar.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

National attention for Stillmore

It's not every day -- in fact, it's hardly ever -- that national press exposure comes to tiny Stillmore, Ga., a little town way down on the southern end of Emanuel County and not far from where my grandmother's family is from in Oak Park. But the town has come to a virtual standstill following illegal-immigrant roundups, and an Associated Press story on that situation has gotten national coverage. Google News says that as of this morning, the story was in the online editions of the Boston Globe, Fox News, and both Seattle daily papers.

Interesting fact: My father has always told me that Stillmore's claim to fame was that there was a railroad roundhouse there.

Saturday, September 2, 2006

Gag order imposed in case of children who drowned in sewage pond

Judge's ruling limits statements to media in the runup to the trial, the Augusta Chronicle reports.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Columbia County 162nd in the nation in per-capita income

That's according to the Census Bureau, which in August dumped out a bunch of newly updated statistics for the not-quite-800 largest (in population) counties in the U.S. Columbia talled $27,496 in per-capita income, ranking it beneath Worcester County, Mass., and Northampton County, Pa. (The ranking only considered counties with at least 65,000 residents, so sorry, Warren, McDuffie and other nearby counties weren't included -- Columbia was the closest one on the list.) Highest Georgia county on the list: No surprise – Fulton at 30th ($35,795) followed immediately by Fayette ($35,639) at 31st.

Good news from Oslo: They found 'The Scream'

Edvard Munch's "The Scream" had been AWOL for two years (link goes to Washington Post.com).

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Plastic tubing plant to create 30 new jobs

Plastic Tubing Industries will build an $11 million plant in Warrenton by next summer, the Atlanta Business Chronicle reports.

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

McKinney loses in runoff bid

U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, who a few years ago was Warren County's Congresswoman, has lost in her re-election bid to challenger Hank Johnson. (The congressional districts have since been redrawn, and Warren County is now in the district represented by U.S. Rep. John Barrow.) The link goes to the Journal-Constitution story on the election.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Warrenton honored for National Main Street recognition

One of 69 Georgia cities recognized as such.

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Turner South being sold; TBS to show fewer Braves games in coming years

Rupert Murdoch's Fox News may buy Turner South, while the Braves themselves may be sold to the guy who owns the Falcons, the Macon Telegraph reports.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Husband says wife innocent in child-drowning case

No trial date set in the case of Lottie Kain, WRDW reports.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Teachers fired for falsifying grades

Five firings spark student protests, WRDW reports.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

House fire kills woman

Story from WJBF's Web site.