James Brown once revealed why he had to basically tell Elvis Presley ‘We’re cool, but we ain’t that cool.’ The Godfather was an entertainer whom many artists wanted to be. He had it all- charisma, dancing skills, originality, unique voice, and plenty of hits. He’s one of the most sampled artists ever and although he didn’t get paid for every sample, he still took it all in stride like a champ. There was one artist that he could not excuse though- Elvis.
James Brown ultimately became tired of watching Elvis attempting to jack everything from him- literally. In his memoir, “I FEEL GOOD A Memoir of a Life of Soul,” James Brown said:
“Elvis Presley wanted everything I had, in addition to the gospel he wanted to somehow get into soul. I had a man working for me, by the name of Bob Patton, and Elvis used to call him all the time to get my tapes so that he could play them until he thought he had the sound down. Then he’d rent a theater for himself and friends so he could perform soul music, James Brown style. Not long after he asked me if he could use my band as a backup for a tour, but I couldn’t go for that. That was my band, and my band only.”
They say imitation is the best form of flattery and it looks like Elvis was attempting to flatter the heck out of the Godfather of Soul…geesh!
James Brown and Elvis eventually became good friends though, and after Elvis passed away, James was quoted as saying:
“I wasn’t just a fan, I was his brother. Last time I saw Elvis alive was at Graceland. We sang ‘Old Blind Barnabus’ together, a gospel song. I love him and hope to see him in heaven. There’ll never be another like that soul brother.”
We’re seeing this form of what some call “swagger jacking” or “culture vultures” happening all too often these days and I don’t want you to think I’m only referring to White artists because I’m not…Black artists are doing it also. It’s one thing to have artists who are genuine with their craft, because we can always tell when it’s real. Take Teena Marie for example, soul ran all through her veins and it was just evident. Then there are others who stand out like a sore thumb.
Now, this is no diss to Elvis at all, he did his thing and ultimately developed a unique style, but here are a few artists who seem to have taken a page out of Elvis’ book and attempted to “flatter” their idols, to no avail:
Remember when he was supposed to be the Caucasian version of MC Hammer? Uh…he didn’t convince a lot of us with that one, although he sold a few million. After he started to get called out on the lies he’d told about “growing up in the hood” and other fictionalized attempts about his life in an attempt to sell people on his “authenticity” and that’s where he really messed up and his sales started plummeting. I guess he’s now realized that “being from the hood” is not the only way to sell rap albums, but being authentic, no matter who you are.
This is self-explanatory. Like I said, it is not about race and Milli Vanilli are perfect examples of that. I’m not sure exactly who they were trying to imitate, other than the four singers who actually sang their vocals on their albums.
I think that deep down, Beiber’s trying to emulate Chris Brown, not only in singing style and stage presence but in life. Overall, he’s just a young man who is trying to still find his path, so we won’t go too hard on him.