Tuesday, June 9, 2015

James Brown Funked Up The Stage On Late Night With David Letterman

David Letterman’s recent retirement from late-night television made me think of all the terrific music guests who had performed on his long-running talk show Late Night With David Letterman over the years—as well as the show’s great house band led by Paul Shaffer. When it premiered on NBC 33 years ago, the show was sort of a younger, hipper and more irreverent alternative to The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. And Letterman’s show always booked top music talent.

My favorite music performance on the show was when James Brown treated Dave’s audience to an electrifying, roof-raising set back in 1982. Brown kicked off his set with a dynamic performance of his funk classic “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine,” which immediately got audience members moving in their seats. He even tickled the keys a bit during the song.  The funk/soul legend then launched into a rousing rendition of the nostalgic “There Was a Time," and he closed out his set with an explosive performance of his super-funky cut “I Got The Feelin’.”

Throughout the set, Brown thrilled the audience with some of his famous dance moves, illustrating why people dubbed him “Mr. Dynamite” back in the day. And he couldn’t have asked for a tighter backing band than Paul Shaffer and his talented crew, aka “The World’s Most Dangerous Band.” The lineup for the late-night band when this performance was taped was Paul Shaffer (keyboards, musical director), Hiram Bullock (guitar), Will Lee (bass) and Steve Jordan (drums and percussion). Also on hand were Brown’s longtime horn players Sinclair Pinckney (saxophone) and Hollie Ferris (trumpet).

In the ensuing years, the Godfather of Soul made a few more appearances on David Letterman’s show and never failed to tear the roof off each time.

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