I’ll be honest, I cant really stand the track save for the bassdrum. They could have left the rest of it out and it would have sounded a better techno track 🙂 However, since we’re playing around in the wonderful world of 1991 Commercial techno, its getting a mention.
Great Writeup from Good NF on Discogs
I remember being on a nearby market place early September 1991, where a drive-in show was hosted. It was a time in which bringing in your own tunes was no problem. A 18-year-old girl came up with this tune, which was already a number one in our dance charts and released on a CD5 a couple of days before. Three weeks later, “James Brown Is Dead” was number one in the Dutch Top 40 and remained in the chart for 14 weeks. The rap version was made, but did not contribute to the chart success here; most radio stations played the original no-rap version, edited down to three minutes.
I also remember Derrick May reviewing the track in a popular Dutch dance music magazine: “It’s a hypocritic record. It will eventually destroy the techno scene: people will listen to this rave trash rather than techno. What would James Brown think of it himself?”
Some of the source recordings are still a mystery. It is clear that Denzil Slemming (who created the recording) was inspired by T.99’s “Anastasia” as it contains similar orchestral vocals (they are said to originate from a Gustav Mahler classical piece). However, the synth sound used right before the “announcement” is taken from the outro of “So fine” by Electric Light Orchestra (when you listen very closely to the samples, you will notice that the tone frequency is not constant, which is also the case on the ELO track).
The track paved a way for acts like 2 Unlimited and a lot of similar acts who also used rap vocals over rave sounds.
Two major “replies” exist: Holy Noise “James Brown is still alive” and Traumatic Stress “Who the f… is James Brown?”. These tracks really needed the rap version in order to chart, which shows the strength of the original. Some of the variations include “Who is Elvis?”, “Elvis has left the building”, “Michael Jackson is in heaven now”, “Vater Abraham ist tot” and “Meat Loaf is fat”.
In some way, the track was also responsible for records as Ottorongo’s “Five O’Clock… my ass” (which tangoes even further), RTZ “Dance your ass off” (using the “Espana Cani” bullfighters anthem), rave versions of the Birds dance and the Radetzky march, Booming Support “De rode schoentjes” (as well as all parodies to that one, like “De stukgedanste schoentjes” and “Rubberen kaplaarzen”) and finally Apotheosis “O Fortuna” which was banned after the prohibition of the use of a sample from Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana”.