Tuesday, December 26, 2006


I'm also struck by the almost extraterrestrial quality of otherness incarnated in this human being. James Brown is, by his own count, seventy-two years old. Biographers have suggested that three or four years ought to be added to that total. It's also possible that given the circumstances of his birth, in a shack in the woods outside Barnwell, South Carolina, in an environment of poverty and exile so profound as to be almost unimaginable, James Brown has no idea how old he is. No matter: He's in his midseventies, yet, encountering him now in person, it occurs to me that James Brown is kept under wraps for so long at the outset of his own show, and is viewed primarily at a distance, or mediated through recordings or films, in order to buffer the unprepared spectator from the awesome strangeness and intensity of his person. He simply has more energy, is vibrating at a different rate, than anyone I've ever met, young or old. With every preparation I've made, he's still terrifying.

James Brown sits, gesturing with his hand: It's time for playback. Mr. Brown and Mr. Bobbit sit in the two comfortable leather chairs, while the band members are bunched around the room, either seated in folding metal chairs or on their feet.

We listen, twice, to the take of "Hold On, I'm A-Comin'." James Brown lowers his head and closes his eyes. We're all completely silent. At last he mumbles faint praise: "Pretty good. Pretty good." Then, into the recording room. James Brown takes his place behind the mike, facing the band. We dwell now in an atmosphere of immanence, of ceremony, so tangible it's almost oppressive. James Brown is still contained within himself, muttering inaudibly, scratching his chin, barely coming out of himself. Abruptly, he turns to me.

"You're very lucky, Mr. ROLLING STONE. I don't ordinarily let anyone sit in on a session."

"I feel lucky," I say.

- From Being James Brown, a Rolling Stone interview by Jonathan Lethem.

–adjective 1. remaining within; indwelling; inherent.
2. Philosophy. (of a mental act) taking place within the mind of the subject and having no effect outside of it. Compare transeunt.
3. Theology. (of the Deity) indwelling the universe, time, etc. Compare transcendent (def. 3).

[Origin: 1525–35; < LL immanent- (s. of immanéns), prp. of immanére to stay in, equiv. to im- im-1 + man(ére) to stay + -ent- -ent; see remain]

—Related forms
im·ma·nence, im·ma·nen·cy, noun
im·ma·nent·ly, adverb

- Definition from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/immanence.

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