Wednesday, October 17, 2018

"Living in America" by James Brown

Top 10 Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  2560
Date:  12/07/1985
Debut:  91
Peak:  4
Weeks:  19
Genre:  R&B, Soul, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  The Godfather of Soul scored his first R&B Top 10 hit in 1956 with "Please, Please, Please." More than fifty R&B Top 10's would follow over the next few decades. Brown would place over 100 songs on the Pop chart, yet prior to this time period only six would make the Top 10. The late 60s/early 70s were his heydays on the chart, but as the 80s rolled around his brand of soul wasn't bringing him hits. With his last Top 10 at R&B being in 1976 and his last Pop Top 10 way back in 1968, the younger generation wasn't all that familiar with the legend or his music. But then Brown began making notable appearances in a couple of films, including The Blues Brothers, and interest in his music began to grow. Sylvester Stallone took notice and wanted Brown to appear in his film Rocky IV. It took a little convincing, but Brown agreed to appear and to also sing a new song written by Dan Hartman and Charlie Midnight titled "Living in America." Brown sings the song in the film prior to Apollo Creed's fight with Drago. It would be issued out as the second single from the soundtrack album following Survivor's "Burning Heart." With the movie a box office hit, the song took off and reached #10 R&B, #3 Dance, and #4 Pop. It would also become Brown's first and only Top 10 in the UK getting to #5. The song earned a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Song while Brown won the award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. The Godfather was back in a big way.

ReduxReview:  This song was a perfect fit for Brown. It paid tribute to Brown's soul roots while sounding fresh with some modern pop/rock elements. Dan Hartman's blue-eyed soul gets turned into the real thing thanks to Brown's authentic and spirited performance. Although the song was helped along by the film, it really was strong enough to stand on its own. I find it difficult not to get caught up in this jam. It may not stand right alongside Brown's classic early hits, but it bubbles up nearby as an excellent late-career revival.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  In his career, James Brown place 57 singles in the R&B Top 10. His last one happened in 1988. That was a chart record and Brown held on to that until 2017 when he was surpassed by rap star Drake. At one point, Drake and Brown were tied for third place for most #1 R&B songs (17), but in 2018, Drake moved ahead and holds third place by himself. The two artists ahead of Drake with more #1's are actually tied at 20 apiece - Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder. With Drake's career yet to really ebb (at the time of this writing), chances are good that he could take over sole possession of the title. Of course, music and chart rules have changed over the years and Drake's totals include songs where he was a featured artist and listens/views from streaming services and YouTube. While Drake's achievements are impressive, the totals from Brown, Franklin, and Wonder came at a time when they needed physical sales of product and radio airplay to get their hits. They didn't have the opportunity to release an album and have nearly all of its tracks appear on the chart at one time. Can you image if they did?


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