Saturday, May 26, 2012

She's a Dancing Machine

Damita Jo Freeman was a legendary Soul Train dancer in the 70s. Dancers on the show usually didn't dance with the performers, but James Brown liked the way she grooved so much that he bypassed Don Cornelius and asked the young lady directly to perform while he sang "Super Bad." Two minutes and thirty three seconds of pure awesomeness was the result.

Yeah, that's Damita doing doing the robot in 1970, which may be the first time the dance was ever televised. (Michael didn't debut Dancing Machine until three years later. Yeah, I'll wait while you look.) James Brown is watching like he doesn't know what the hell he's looking at, but there's no mistaking the respect.
Same thing happened with Joe Tex, when he sang "I Gotcha" on Soul Train. (If you've never heard the song, then prepare yourself for some seriously ignant mysogifunk. Key lyrics: You promised me when you left your boyfriend/I'd be the next one to ease on in and Give me what you promised, now give it here. )

As you can see, the dynamic is different because Joe felt the need to "participate" a bit more as a dancer, despite the fact that Damita folds him up and places him gently to the left.

Looking at these two performances it's interesting because both songs are about power. One is a man estimating his own power by his Soul level. Sometimes I feel so nice, Good God, I want to jump back and kiss myself. The other is about a man taking possession of a woman's body with a Shylock-like glee. You made me a promise and you're going to stick to it. 

 James Brown can watch Damita embody his song without feeling threatened. Joe Tex has to reaffirm his Gotchaness by finally pulling a bunch of female dancers on stage to dilute Damita's power.

Didn't work, of course. Rarely does.

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