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March 12, 1990 - Image 8

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1990-03-12

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Page 8-The Michigan Daily - Monday, March 12, 1990

FreeJ
by Forrest Green 111
JAMES Brown, the self-proclaimed
"Godfather of Soul," has earned a
number of titles during his musical
career - "The Hardest Working
Man in Show Business," "Soul
Brother #1," "Mr. Dynamite" and
"Dr. Feelgood," but I believe that ir-
refutably, the Godfather truly de-
serves one very special title - The
Funkiest Man Alive. Arguably, how
could anyone in her/his right mind
question such a title? And further-
more, how could we allow such a
man to serve time?
Rest assured, James is all the
more funky for his jail sentence, but
one must not forget that he's been
funky for a long time. Regardless of

lames
16, he was caught and sentenced to
eight to 16 years for "four counts of
breaking and entering, and larceny
from an automobile." Luckily, he
only served three years and one day,
being granted early parole. And aside
from his numerous altercations with
the police, the Godfather has a his-
tory of conflicts with the IRS. On
three separate occasions his posses-
sions have been seized and sold at
rates as ridiculous as one-third their
value.
And sure he wears a process, but
no one could hope to explain the riot
that broke out at his '66 show in
Kansas City. Besides giving a typi-
cally overwhelming and inspiring
performance, which included faking a
heart attack and having a right-hand
- man help him back onto stage for
? another encore, James did nothing to
incite thousands of teenagers to de-
stroy and loot surrounding stores,
while more than 100 police officers
stormed the stage. It's unquestion-
able that the police don't like James
Brown. Now THAT'S funky.
Today, James is serving his sen-
tence like a man's man's man. As
he's been quoted, "ain't nothin'
changed but the address," but can
anyone doubt the injustice of his
punishment? After all, Zsa Zsa only
got a slap on the wrist.
James' recordings, which guest-
starred funk geniuses such as Maceo
Parker, Bobby Byrd and Bootsy
Collins, possessed and still possess
an immortal vitality. If one were to
have him fairly, legally compensated
for all the samples and covers of his
material, including the work of rap-
pers like Big Daddy Kane, Public
Enemy, Ice-T, Eric B. and Rakim,
Kid n' Play and Biz Markie among
countless others, surely one would
amass enough money to free James
Brown - at least twice. WHERE
would hip hop be without the Funky
Drummer? Think about it: his
recordings have spawned and inspired
whole generations of music, includ-
ing the most relevant genre of the
past decade - but he won't be re-
ceiving a single dime for this. Very
unfunky.

Brown!

Penn and Teller.
Cynics for the '90s
Penn and Teller Get Killed
d ir. Arth ur Pen n
by Mike Kuniavsky
It's about time that Penn and Teller made a film. With all of their TV
(and MTV) sensibilities and as "masters" of Illusion, they've ironically
avoided the most illusory medium of all. Until now. With Penn and
Teller Get Killed they enter, headlong and at warp factor five, the medium
of cinematic mass confusion.
Written by Penn and Teller themselves and directed by Arthur Penn
(Bonnie and Clyde, Little Big Man, The Miracle Worker, and no relation
to Mr. Jillette), the film is basically a tribute to the boys and the
illusionary cynicism they represent. The film's premise is that Penn, in a
very Penn-esque interview with a pseudo-talkshow host, wishes that
someone was trying to kill him - it would make life more interesting. In
the world of Penn and Teller, everyone is evil and a looney, so of course
lots of people threaten to kill him. Simultaneously, we discover that the
cruelly fun-loving boys enjoy playing vicious practical jokes on each other
(which seem much funnier to them than to us) and so a formula for
intrigue is built: is someone really trying to kill Penn, or is Teller playing
a practical joke on Penn, or is Penn playing a practical joke on Teller?
Thereafter, both the resolution to these questions and the tension between
reality, illusion and the illusion of reality preoccupy the film.
Though this approach seems to have a lot of potential - this sort of
material is well-exercised by the duo when on stage - the film falls
through mainly because the characters remain so cynical and self-centered
that we soon don't really care if someone is trying to kill Penn or if Teller
will ever speak (he does). Ultimately, when the unexpected resolution
finally comes, the story has been so watered down by the sarcasm of the
lead characters and the world in which they live that it's a relief it's over.
The movie is pretty fast-paced, and is frequently punctuated by humorous
(nevertheless, excruciatingly cynical) episodes in which the two criticize
various aspects of American pop culture, such as their continual references
to drinking "diet cola," made while shoving a can of Diet Coke casually
into the camera.
The oddest thing about this film, though, is that Arthur Penn directed
it. One of the best Hollywood directors of the late '60s and early '70s, it's
ironic that Penn directed such a "small" film in the late '80s. What's even
odder is that he seems to have almost no control over the two leads.
Maybe he was intimidated by the very vocal writer/actors, maybe he had a
stomach ailment; whatever the case, his bottom line contribution is
unfortunately minimal. Still, the film's faults are ultimately not his. The
cynicism of Penn Jillette and Teller, though highly irreverent and amusing
in the medium of stage magic, just doesn't translate well to the rest of the
world, even with the masters at the helm.
PENN AND TELLER GET KILLED played at the Tele-Arts in Detroit
last week. Look for it on video.

.

his wrongs, one thing is certain:
James Brown is not serving any
purpose behind bars. In a crucial
time that many a critic or listener
hails as that of the death of rhythm
and blues, it is essential that we give
James amnesty - before it's too
late. One need only think of George
Clinton and Funkadelic's classic
1979 chant, "Think! It Ain't Illegal
Yet!" to recognize the symbolic
tragedy of the Funkiest Man Alive
being incarcerated here in our coun-
try.
James Brown's childhood in Ma-
con, Georgia was marred by consid-
erable poverty, and he inevitably
turned to crime due to his unfortu-
nate situation. At the tender age of

The Berlin Wall stands no more,
Nelson Mandela is a free man, the
Communist Party is coming to an
abrupt end - world peace is on the
horizon. But not an American can
sleep peacefully as long as Soul
Brother #1 is behind bars. Come on,
people. Papa don't deserve this
mess. Now here's my proposal: over
50,000 people read the Daily. If each
of you would send me, Forrest Green

III, $5 American, then that'll come
to $250,000 for starters. I'm also
sending this article to all the rap la-
bels, including Tommy Boy, Def-
Jam, Next Plateau and Ruthless
Records for further support. And if
UCAR would chip in, I'd be pleased
to have their money to pass along.
Join me people, and we can fight
"Gravity."
FREE JAMES BROWN!!!!

RIDE THE WAVE .

. .

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