Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Lost Side of Bobby Byrd

“Soul Brother No. One-And-A-Half”
(Fred Wesley)

Bobby Byrd, founder of the Famous Flames, co-writer of some of James Brown’s most enduring funk classics and the man who told the world to “get on up” millions of times thanks to his vocal in Sex Machine, died last month.

With a good claim to being one of the hardest working men in show business, Byrd also managed a decent solo career. His most famous song, I Know You Got Soul, owes its popularity to being one of hip hop’s staple samples, most famously in Eric B and Rakim’s – wait for it – I Know You Got Soul.

About two months after that 1987 sample (and before Public Enemy’s use of it for three different songs), Mr X and Mr Z used the same backing for Drink Old Gold. Old skool aficionados will be amused remembering the lines “It ain’t what you’re drinkin’/It’s where you drink at”.

The solo compilation from 1990 Finally Getting Paid hinted at Byrd’s frustration at losing royalties from both sampling culture and James Brown’s swindling him out of 40 co-writing credits (the claims didn’t stand up as they were deemed too old; however, Brown alluded to Byrd writing the songs in a number of interviews).

The b-side to 1971’s I Know You Got Soul, It's I Who Love You (Not Him Anymore), is my favourite Bobby Byrd song and one that is bafflingly omitted by ‘best of’ compilers. Ironically, given its – ahem – passing similarity to Dark End Of The Street, the songwriting credits should probably give a nod to Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn, but for Southern grit, gospel-infused soul and gut-wrenching emotion, they don’t come much better than this.

1 comment:

ally. said...

i missed that he'd popped off too - that b side has been on too many tapes i've done to mention. fine choice.