What the Pope Told James Brown

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"I took a trip to Rome during one of my down periods a few years ago, and had the good fortune to be greeted by the pope," says James Brown in his latest memoir (according to this Martha Bayles review). "The pontiff shook my hand three times, and I told him I had been thinking about leaving the music business, and to my surprise, he advised against it. I asked him why.

"He said, 'Because, sir, you can get things done.'"

So what do you suppose John Paul II meant by that? Did he have a list of worthy things that he hoped that James Brown would accomplish? Or was the pope trying but failing to get down, intending to say, "Because, James Brown, you can really take care of business!" Or is that "get things done" stuff what passes for papal small talk? Maybe you once chatted with the pope; did he tell you the same thing?

Maybe JP2 hoped that James Brown would reveal the truth about crunk. Brown speculates in his memoir that rap lyrics heavy with sex are some sort of FCC conspiracy to make Black people look bad, and that some songs may even have their origin in "some faction of the FCC."

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  1. Rap lyrics making blacks look bad? Nooooooo…

    Of course, I can’t throw stones. I’m completely unable to drive fifty-five.

  2. Maybe its because Brown likes to smack around on women?

  3. Il Papa’s got a brand new bag…

  4. The Pope digs a fellow cape-wearer.

  5. Did the Pope say this before or after James Brown led the police on an alcohol and drug-fueled highspeed chase while firing a handgun out the window of his car? Because if he said it afterwards, that would make JP2 the coolest freakin’ pope ever!

  6. SR,

    Did he say it before or after James Brown started beating on women?

    And yeah, I find people who risk the lives of others while driving under the influence so heroic. Not.

  7. “I find people who risk the lives of others while driving under the influence so heroic. Not.”

    A) Being cool and being heroic are not synonyms.

    B) I thought it was more than obvious that my post was intended to be humorous.

  8. SR,

    Your cool remark was directed at the Pope. No, it wasn’t obviously humorous.

  9. ^ LOL

  10. The Pope also said that James Brown was *bad.*

  11. …are some sort of FCC conspiracy to make Black people look bad…

    Maybe he ought to be looking in the mirror. James Brown is about as of such of charge as Ike Turner.

  12. The Pope didn’t say it was OK to drive drunk and beat women. He said James Brown could get things done as a singer. I know he did some sort of literacy, stay-in-school song at one point (James Brown, not the Pope. I don’t think the Pope himself ever cut an album).

  13. the Righttalk ad sucks pretty horribly once again, can’t reason find a bleedin sponsor as cool as Nick and Julian and crew think they are?

  14. James Brown, not the Pope. I don’t think the Pope himself ever cut an album).

    Comment by: Sluice at July 29, 2005 07:52 PM

    Guess again.

    http://www.abbapater.com/

  15. Guess again.

    http://www.abbapater.com/

    I stand corrected!

  16. Wow. First James Brown met the Pope, then he Beat The Devil.

  17. I want to know what the puppy pope thinks about this. Hakluyt might not find it humorous, but I’m sure that I will!

  18. I thought it was Kris Kristofferson who beat the devil.

  19. the Righttalk ad sucks pretty horribly once again, can’t reason find a bleedin sponsor as cool as Nick and Julian and crew think they are?

    Well, at least they should make the writing big enough so it’s possible to actually read the supposedly funny bit

  20. I seriously doubt the that Soul for Father God ever met and talked with the Godfather of Soul, anymore than Johnny Carson wrote material for Al Gore. We live in an age in which bald-faced lying to sell books comes so easily to public figures that have a camera or reporter’s microphone shoved in their face.

    The real sadness is that at one time, before he started beating his wives, wearing anti-FCC tinfoil hats, and doing Funkadelic-type fashion modeling for police line-ups, James Brown, in addition to being an entertainer, was a good role model for entrepreneurship in the black community. His business moves in the lates 1960s/early 1970s actually inspired a lot of today’s rap and R&B moguls of my generation, as well as black pop artists like Prince and Michael Jackson.

    Furthermore, his songs in that era like “I Don’t Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing (Open Up the Door I’ll Get It Myself)” helped shape my young mind in thinking outside the constrictions of welfare state victimhood.

    Brown’s statements are just another take on the “You’re Making Us All Look Bad” speeches that Bill Cosby has been delivering to other blacks he sees as behaviorially degenerate (and in this regard, I agree with him, Wynton Marsalis, and Stanley Crouch). In Cosby’s case, blunt as his words often have been, he is telling young blacks in an Hoffer-esque manner that they have the power to examine themselves and change their own behavior, which, taken simply, is at least a transcendent viewpoint. Unfortunately, Brown’s comments are just a more bizarre and shallow version of the “we’re all just non-white tabula rasas in the big racist conspiracy” victim mentality and that you are what others make of you, not what you make of yourself.

    That being said, conspiracy theories are hardly the domain of only the disenfranchised (whether they actually are or just believe that they are) minority entertainers. My first brush with the concept of “wild government agency conspiracy theories” was back in the 1980s listening to Jello Biafra lyrics …

  21. Hey SR,

    HEy, I thought your “coolest pop ever” line was pretty damn funny. Don’t let haklyut decide what is humorous or not. Make jokes all you want- it’s all we can do these days (see the next article about the municipalities feeling emboldened by Kelo to take all kinds of land from individuals).

  22. JP2 was the hardest working pope ever. Back in his prime, he would do a mass for four hours straight, to the point that he was barely holding up. His handlers would appear and slowly lead him from the altar, but then he would break away and throw some more blessings at the screaming congregation.

    And JP2 did awesome splits..

  23. Unlike BAI, I think this encounter may have actually occurred, but even so, I doubt if it has any significance. He probably never heard of Brown before or since, and maybe didn’t even know during the interview. (One of William F. Buckley’s books has an account of the time he, Malcolm Muggeridge, and David Niven met John Paul, and the Pope was apparently quite confused about who they were and why he was meeting them.) At best, the Pope was as probably told by an aide before Brown entered, “This guy is an American singer,” and so when Brown claimed to be leaving the music business, John Paul replied with meaningless pleasnatries. It’s absurd to interpret the exchange as “The Pope condoned wife-beating.”

  24. I seriously doubt the that Soul for Father God ever met and talked with the Godfather of Soul, anymore than Johnny Carson wrote material for Al Gore. We live in an age in which bald-faced lying to sell books comes so easily to public figures that have a camera or reporter’s microphone shoved in their face.

    it’s also any excuse, any excuse at all to bash the pope around here, mr iconoclast. 🙂

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