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NOD TO THE GODS: James Brown & Dee Felice Trio, ‘Sunny’
November 3, 2013
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Each and every Sunday night when the clock hits eight, The Strombo Show celebrates the spirit of radio over on CBC Radio 2. It's music for music lovers by music lovers. To kick off the program, we always tip our hats to the legends, the noisemakers and the ground-breakers in a segment that we like to call: Nod to the Gods.

Tonight we explore the Godfather of Soul, Soul Brother Number One, The Hardest Working Man in Show Business, Minister of The New New Super Heavy Funk... You might know him by the name James Brown. He's a musical force that altered the course of popular music more than once, with his innovations flowing into the careers of Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger, Public Enemy, Prince and many others.

'Gettin' Down to It' was his 31st release on the King label from his 71 studio album career. Recorded in Cincinnati, it showcases another side of Brown, as he embraces his love of standards and the phrasing of his favourite male vocalist, Frank Sinatra. Accompanied by a piano trio led by Dee Felice, he covered the range of Sinatra standards like 'Strangers in the Night', 'That's Life', 'It Had to be You'. But the album begins with a stunning rendition of Bobby Hebb's 'Sunny' with the musical diva Marva Whitney.

In his performance at the top of the page, Mr. Dynamite introduces the track: "Few years ago, a young man was feeling a little stirred, down and out. So he decided to write a tune that he thought would make things a little more beautiful around the world. He thought about writing a tune that'd inspire people and give him a little uplift."

'Sunny' became one of the most-covered popular songs. It was written in the 48 hours following a double tragedy on November 22, 1963, the day that United States President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and Bobby Hebb's older brother Harold was killed, stabbed to death outside a Nashville nightclub. 'Sunny' was met with immediate success and resulted in Bobby Hebb's tour with The Beatles.

The tune has become a standard, and been covered by a string of singers including Cher, Boney M., Andy Williams, Stevie Wonder, The Four Seasons, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Johnny Mathis, Wilson Pickett, War, Frank Sinatra, Mark Ronson, Bill Cosby, Ella Fitzgerald and Tom Jones.

For more on James Brown, check out one of the most comprehensive overviews of his career, PBS's 'Soul Survivor: The Story of James Brown'. All of the vintage concert footage is dissected by his former arranger Fred Wesley and the documentary includes interviews with Marva Whitney, Lyn Collins, Bobby Byrd, Afrika Bambaata, Fred Wesley, Al Sharpton, Dan Aykroyd, Chuck D, Nelson George, Wyclef Jean, Little Richard and Mr. Dynamite himself.

For further musical musings, new and old, join the collective for The Strombo Show on CBC Radio 2, every Sunday night at 8PM. And if you'd like to catch up or relisten, all of the episodes are archived on our Radio page.


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