Happy Birthday James Brown: Performing At 1981 North Sea Jazz Festival

By Nate Todd May 3, 2021 11:02 am PDT

Today would have been James Brown’s 88th birthday. The legendary singer, songwriter and performer was born on May 3, 1933 in Barnwell, South Carolina but moved with his family to Augusta, Georgia at an early age.

Brown would go on to become one of the greatest entertainers of all time as well as a towering figure in soul music, as the moniker Godfather of Soul suggests, and a progenitor of funk. As a key figure in American music, Brown’s later career saw him in the ambassador role, spreading the genres he helped create to an international audience. In the second half of the 20th century, there weren’t many locales that carried more of an international air than The Hague.

A city in The Netherlands, The Hague is home to the International Court of Justice, the judicial arm of the United Nations. The Hague also hosted the North Sea Jazz Festival between 1976 and 2006. James Brown would put on two performances for the festival on July 11, 1981. A few years back, the World of Jazz YouTube channel shared video of Brown’s second performance that day.

Brown’s world-renowned showmanship is on full display for his appearance at North Sea in 1981. As Brown often did, he let his incredible band get the crowd nice and warmed up before taking the stage. They perform songs like “Hot Pants Road,” “We Are The Funky Men” as well as a medley of “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and the “Star Wars Theme.”

JB hits the stage about 24 minutes in and immediately shows off his iconic dance moves as well as his total command over the large band as well as the audience. While the latter is seated during the beginning of the show, by the end they are standing and dancing no doubt due to the slew of get-up-and-move classics JB plays like “Too Funky In Here,” “Doing It to Death (Gonna Have a Funky Good Time),” “Get On The Good Foot,” “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag” and “I Got You (I Feel Good).” During a characteristically passionate performance of “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” Brown also pays tribute to a number of artists that passed too soon like Otis Redding, Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Sam Cooke and John Lennon, who had just been killed a few months before Brown’s North Sea performance. JB brings the house down with “Sex Machine” to close out his set.

To celebrate James Brown’s birthday, watch the Godfather of Soul perform at the North Sea Jazz Festival in 1981 below via the JamBase Live Video Archive:

World of Jazz (See 2 videos)
James Brown (See 16 videos)


Set: Hot Pants Road, We Are The Funky Men, Also Sprach Zarathustra, Hit Man, It’s Too Funky In Here, Doing It To Death (Gonna Have A Funky Good Time), Try Me, Get On The Good Foot, I’m Just A Prisoner, Cold Sweat, Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag, I Got You (I Feel Good), It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World, Jam, Sex Machine

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