Remained a force to be reckoned with
up until the very end.
By Rev Keith Gordon
[Note: the following appears courtesy
author Gordon and About.com‘s “Guide to Blues.”]
Rhythm & blues giant Napoleon “Nappy” Brown died on Saturday,
September 20th, 2008 after suffering a long illness.
The big-voiced blues music and R&B star was hospitalized in New Jersey
on June 1st after he suffered from overwhelming weakness at the beginning of
his set at the annual Crawfish
Festival, and he was unable to perform. At first it was thought that the
singer was suffering from extreme dehydration, but other medical issues
surfaced, resulting in Brown spending nearly four months in the hospital before
The medical setback came at a bad time for the singer, who had been enjoying
a recent career resurgence in the wake of his Blues Music Award twice-nominated
album Long Time Coming, released in 2007 by Blind Pig Records, and his
subsequent knock-down performance at the BMA show. Because of Brown’s illness,
however, his summer tour dates – including a number of festival appearances –
had to be cancelled.
Brown enjoyed a lengthy and moderately successful career in music that
stretched from the late-1940s to the present day. Originally a gospel singer,
Brown made the jump into R&B in 1954 at the insistence of his label and
would go on to deliver a series of hit songs through the end of the decade.
Brown’s unique style mixed blues, soul, and a bit of rock & roll to create
an energetic and crowd-pleasing sound, and Elvis Presley is said to be among
those who admired Brown’s vocals and performance style.
After spending most of the 1960s and ’70s out of the musical spotlight,
Brown came roaring back in 1984 with the blues-oriented album Tore Up,
recorded with guitarist Tinsley Ellis and his band the Heartfixers. Albums
would follow for labels like Blacktop, Ichiban and JSP, culminating in Long
Time Coming, the acclaimed “comeback” album which cemented
Brown’s longstanding reputation as a soulful blues shouter.
Brown remained a popular draw on the festival circuit through the years, and
he continued to perform until his hospitalization. Like so many modern-era
blues artists, Brown was a musical force to be reckoned with even in the
twilight of his career.