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The CHIRP Blog

Andy Frye writesMemory Lane: James Brown Says “Stay Away From Drugs!”

Some of us music lovers are old. Like, old enough to remember when the great James Brown went to prison. In late February 1991, the national news of his release was greeted by music lovers everywhere.

Despite what some Generation X members might tell you about our landmark record collections and our attendance at legendary small-club shows, none of us had seen James Brown perform. We only knew him as a mythical, god-like figure. Then, suddenly, one day in the early 1990s, James Brown records came out with fury.

Eight months after Brown’s parole, there was 20 All-Time Greatest Hits!—Polydor’s James Brown compilation album. The compilation went platinum and even graced the top 100 of Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Albums in 1993. Everyone had it. (Really, everyone.)

Early promotional versions of the disc (plus other James Brown works) circulated the college radio circuit scene. And as a college DJ, I couldn’t resist playing his great songs—plus there were some fantastic extras, including Public Service Announcements Mr. Brown did, telling young people to keep away from crime.

Rumors circulated at the time that some of the PSAs were part of Soul Brother #1’s 1991 parole agreement, but in truth, some were recorded long before the time.

Anyhow, one of my favorites, the “Stay Away From Drugs" PSA, turned up not some years ago in video form. It’s worth a watch and is the perfect pick-me-up for a James Brown fan.


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