No One Else on the Plane

New York nightlife titans salute James Brown, the most titanic of them all

Maurice Bernstein, co-founder, Giant Step: When Giant Step first started in 1990 as the Groove Academy, its m.o. was to give a stage to the artists who were being heavily sampled in hip-hop. James was actually in jail at the time, but I managed to work with alumni such as Bobby Byrd, Vicki Anderson, Maceo Parker, Pee Wee Ellis, Fred Wesley, Bootsy Collins, Catfish Collins, Richard "Kush" Griffiths, Martha High, and Marva Whitney. Spending time with these guys gave me a real insight into the man, the myth, and the legend that was James Brown.

Randy Jones, the cowboy from the Village People: During the Village People era, we got to meet once again. It was the "Living in America" project. My pal Dan Hartman was writing a song for one of the Rocky movies, and he was preparing to do the demo. So Dan called me to his studio and asked if I'd help him with the demo for "Living in America." He wanted it to sound like a Village People song—the big layered male-chorus sound. So I did it, and James loved it and was hysterical in the studio. They kept most of the sound we recorded, and I went back and added more. If you close your eyes and listen to it, you can think of it as a Village People song with James Brown singing lead!

Danny Krivit, DJ, 718 Sessions: By 1971, I was already a vinyl junkie and a 14-year-old amateur DJ when I first met the Godfather of Soul at my neighbor's office. (That's Jerry Schoenbaum, vice president of Polydor Records.) Jerry said, "James, I would like you to meet a big supporter and DJ, Danny Krivit." James replied, "Outta sight! Let's hook him up with my latest jams." He handed me advance promo LPs of "Get on the Good Foot" and (Lyn Collins's) "Think." I was in awe. These were white-label promos, personally handed to me by the man himself, months before their street release. I felt my professional career as a DJ had started at that very moment.

Tom Silverman, founder, Tommy Boy Records: Atlanta-based promo man Bob Patton tells the story of Mr. Brown's private jet losing power in both engines on the way to a gig and plummeting thousands of feet. Patton sat across from Mr. Brown, each looking into the other's eyes as the jet plunged possibly to their deaths. After 10,000 feet of free fall, the engines kicked in again. Mr. Brown said to Patton, "I guess it wasn't my time." As if there was no one else on the plane.

James Brown, R.I.P.

flylife@villagevoice.com

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