Thursday, September 13, 2007

Death Comes In Threes: RIP Bobby Byrd

I have just learned that Famous Flames founder Bobby Byrd, probably known best in the mainstream for his "get on up" backing vocals on James Brown's "Sex Machine" or the "Whatchoo gonna play now?" question that starts off "Make It Funky," but known among funk fans for his '60s and '70s recordings on Smash, King, BrownStone, Kwanzaa and others, has died. As I mentioned in my March 2006 post featuring Byrd, without Bobby Byrd there may very well have not been a "James Brown" - Byrd and his family took in James, who had at the time been a juvenile inmate in Toccoa prison, and Byrd brought him into his group, the Avons, which in short order became "James Brown and The Famous Flames." Bobby Byrd's husky vocals rode those JB-produced grooves we all love like "I Know You Got Soul," "I Need Help," "Keep On Doin' What You're Doin'," "Hot Pants (I'm Coming, Coming, I'm Coming)" and others with an urgency that made them crackle. His records were the first "James Brown Productions" vocal records I ever heard outside of James' own records and his influence on me is great. I don't have time nor handy materials to post anything by Bobby right now, but I found this YouTube vid of Byrd performing "Soul Man" in the James Brown Revue (Byrd was Brown's top opening act - "Soul Brother Number One-and-a-Half" - in the '60s and '70s).

Losing Bobby Byrd the day after New Orleans legend Willie Tee and just barely two weeks after the deep soul legend Kip Anderson reminds me of the adage that "death comes in threes." What it also does, however, is remind me that these legends are passing on, and that their legacy must be carried on. I know that many of my fellow bloggers will continue to join me in making sure that this legacy can be viewed by all who come our way. Rest in peace, Bobby Byrd - you surely "had the word."

1 comment:

Scholar said...

Very nice tribute, Jason. It's an incredibly sad day for those of us who love Bobby Byrd. I've written about him and posted his material several times. He was truly one of the great unsung heroes of funk and soul. Thanks for doing your part to memorialize his legacy.