(james benedict brown) on the road

James Brown is dead

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 25 December, 2006

Early this morning, my most famous namesake died in an Atlanta hospital. At 73, James Brown was suffering from acute pneumonia. He was arguably one of the most famous soul singers that America has ever produced, and a man who’s career I could not help but pay interest to, since I’d been given the same name as him. To clarify a few frequently asked questions: no, my parents had not heard of him before I was christened (although soon after I was born they did record the Blues Brothers off the television onto VHS, and that tape was preserved and enjoyed many times in out household). And no, I can’t sing. And no, I’m not black. But yes, I do enjoy his music a lot.

As anyone out there who has the misfortune to be called Margaret Thatcher, Bradley Pitt or Robin Williams will tell you, it’s not such a great deal sharing a name with someone who’s already made your name for themselves. Ordering things over the telephone is the most difficult: no matter how polite the ticket agent will be, there is always (at the very least) a controlled smirk when I give the name on my credit card. Travelling also reminds me of my soulful ‘brother’. Airline check-in staff and passport control officers also take two glances, but the amusing one-liners never seem to travel from their brains to their mouths fast enough. An malcoordinated chuckle and raised eyebrow is all that is usually managed. The kindest responce I ever got was from a African-American ticket conductor on board the New York City – New Orleans train (the Crescent, which passes through my namesake’s home city of Atlanta) who called up the coach to his colleague: “hey Barbara… guess who we got on the train today…”

So maybe 2007 will be the year I can start to escape the comparisons to a man who (unlike me) could sing and dance. Maybe. Probably not. But it’s a good excuse to find that old tape of the Blues Brothers one more time.

From a secluded corner of Norfolk, I wish you a merry Christmas, and a peaceful holiday, and I hope you get the chance to find some small way to celebrate the life of a generous, talented and hard working man who made my life just a little more interesting.

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