Interview by Rocci Fisch
Rocci recorded the interview in James Brown’s dressing room before a concert in Washington D. C. in 1984. Rocci held onto that cassette tape since that night. Portions of this interview originally aired on ABC News Radio.
The Animated Transcript
Rocci Fisch is now a deputy editor at the WashingtonPost.com
James, how do you feel about the tribute tonight?
Sir, I’m going to call you by your last name as long as you call me by mine.
Yes, sir. One thing I fought for was respect…
And I demand that all the time.
I interviewed James Brown in Washington DC. It was 1984. I was working at ABC News there as an entertainment reporter for ABC Radio Network. James Brown was in town for like a tribute thing down at the old convention center. I was among a lot of other young reporters there waiting in the hallway to be introduced to James Brown. And the door opened up to his dressing room… And there he was with his wife in there who was styling his hair. And hair was a very important thing to James Brown.
The worst thing that can happen to you is to stay number one for too long.
And he gave us a little Q&A, like a mini press conference.
I want to tell you something about these shades. Excuse me for cutting you off. Because I don’t want you to sit up there thinking I’m trying to be be hip and that’s why I put my shades on. This is a different kind of pair of shades. They make an even tone. Anyone put them on and you’ll see the difference. There not no hip shades.
It relaxes your eyes?
Yes. It’s a different kind of shades.
He sort of talks in phrases, and he’s very philosophical about what he says. He sort of, you know, blurts it out.
Black is not a color; it’s an attitude. It’s the attitude of independence, respect and dignity.
It’s not, you know, hard to understand it because he is expressive. The man is a self-educated man.
How the blind going to lead the blind? I really feel sorry for the Afro-American. He really doesn’t know what’s happening, because they were never trained. They don’t know and see this is where White America has the advantage over most people in America. They know how the country’s run, because they made the rules. See what I’m saying? My father got out of the Navy and instead of him going to school, he went and signed up for school and paid the teacher part of his check to mark him present when he was not present. He paid to be ignorant. Why do you think I’ve got everything going? Why I can talk to the president? Because I know how the country is run. I speak for the world. They want me to bring all the world leaders together. Leader of Russia. Leader of Africa. See, because you’ve got to know what’s going on.
What do you think of [President Ronald] Reagan?
I think he’s the most intelligent… I think he’s the most well-coordinated president we’ve ever had in history,
You think he’s going to win again?
I’m not here to endorse. I just know he’s the most well-organized president we’ve ever had in history. His acting ability taught him the whole structure of the country.
Communication, you mean?
He knows what everybody wants. You see, every American, every American man is still a cowboy. See you’ve got to remember that. Because of the frontiersman.
He knows how to act. He knows everything about that. He knows about emotions of people. He knew he was going to be president. See, that’s what’s called a man of conviction. You understand me? I’m not Democrat or Republican; I’m for the man. I’m a humanitarian.
Mr. Brown, you’ve been crowned the title of the Godfather of Soul. Okay, what more do you have to look for now in life?
Just keep living. I’m living every day.
Well, you’ve reached the peak?
What peak? I haven’t reached no peak. Wherever God sends me, that’s where I want to go. Godfather just means that I held on to the word “soul” until everybody got it recognized. Ten years ago, ya’ll liked disco. And y’all liked punk rock. You all keep changing every day. Don’t keep changing so much.
So what is the present James Brown style? Is it the same?
Whatever I want to do. Whatever I want to do. Whatever I want to do. I am not going to tell people what I do no more. I’m going to do my own thing. Because they got mad when I told them. I’m going to do what God say and work in a church and preach about religion. I didn’t get no thanks for it. Only a few people understanding 10-20 years later what I’m doing.
“White Lightning, I Mean Moonshine”
“Living in America”