OK

Not because I am slowing down. I have ailments, but that isn't it either. It's not about my own health. It is about my thoughts now deal with remembering the past.

People think about things that are most important to them. The people in our lives, who influenced us, who are part of our psyche, part of our souls. When most of the people you know or influenced you in life are either dead or old themselves, you realize you are becoming old.

I am writing this because another of my generation has passed on. I could write ten books on the subject of James Brown and the influence he had on popular music. I know there was another diary written on this, so I will not rehash how great he was. However, James Brown inspired me ever since I first slow danced to Please, Please, Please in 1956. I was fortunate enough to see Brown in concert many times. No one, not Sammy Davis, Bobby Darin, not Madonna, nor Michael Jackson ever worked harder, or had greater showmanship than James Brown. Though many people might disagree, James Brown was the greatest stage entertainer of the 20th century.

However, this diary is about the feeling someone has when they witness people of their generation dying off. Kids today grow up on IPods, Tivo, Britney Spears, American Idol, Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce Knowles and Eminem. When I was growing up, I listened to Sarah Vaughn, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra and Billy Eckstine. When R&B started to get big, Clyde McPhatter, Lee Andrews and the Hearts, the Drifters, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles and Frankie Lymon where our day's influences. Many of those stars have passed on. They were just as important to us as Beyonce is to my grandchildren. They will always listen to the music they like as a child until the day they are my age. I can listen to It's a Man's Man's World today, and enjoy it every bit as much as I did when I first heard it 1966. James Brown was that not only for people my age, his greatest legacy was that every generation since has been just as influenced. I hear him when I hear rap, hip hop and today's R&B.

Today is the 7th anniversary of the death of another great musical influence in my life. Unlike James Brown, this musical legend downplayed his role as a star. In fact, he was known as the quiet genius. His name is Curtis Mayfield. I want everyone here to know how great he was, and how much he influenced the music of today. Not just because of the work he did with Jerry Butler and the Impressions. Not just because he wrote and produced great songs for many artists who came out of Chicago. It was because he did it as an art, not just to make a name for himself. There was a big difference between a James Brown concert and a Curtis Mayfield concert. Yet, if I was down and out, sad and blue, and I needed a spiritual re-awakening, I could go to either of their concerts and leave feeling higher and spiritually alive.

There is a show on tonight that will pay tribute to another musical legend. The Kennedy Awards will honor a man tonight who maybe the greatest musical influence of the last half of 20th century. I think if he were still alive, and you were to ask John Lennon what musician or songwriter influenced him more than any other, he would probably say Smokey Robinson. So would many, many more artists who are old enough to remember when songs were part of our sensual expression of love. If you watch the show tonight, keep in mind that our aging generation should be remembered as having soul. If the music of today reflects any of that soul, it is because of the lives of James Brown and Curtis Mayfield. As they start to pass on and I am left with fewer and fewer entertainers of my generation, at least I can hear their music in today's artists who have imitated their melodies, lyrics and rhythms.

Originally posted to tazz on Tue Dec 26, 2006 at 08:39 AM PST.

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