Continuing with the brown theme this month, today’s song is from the Godfather of Soul, Mr. James Brown!
I have a special love in my heart for this song. Oh, I know, I say that about nearly every song, but this time it’s because I actually played this song. I was a tuba player from my 8th grade year to three years in college. Tubas don’t have the most thrilling parts in a song. We’re the rhythm and bass and spend a lot of our time sitting in the back of the band thinking “oompa-pa-pa, ompa-pa-pa” or maybe that was just me.
In my 2nd year of college, my tiny college played a school called Southern University. If you’ve ever seen the movie Drumline, that’s the style of marching and music this school plays. They’re high-marchers with flashy cymbols and dancing drum-majors. Our drum major probably couldn’t dance to save his life. But, we had an interesting assistant band director who has a skill for teaching us conservative musicians to play like we had soul.
And he loved tubas. We were a line of eight. Six men, two women (me and my best friend). Shiny, silver tubas lined up in the back of the band surrounded by wealthy, well-dressed Southern fans at this football game. The director looked up at us and said, “Cold Sweat!” We slung our sousaphones over our shoulders. My heart pounded with a combination of fear and a tinge of awe. I’d just heard Southern’s band play something modern and cool.
Then we busted out. Just tubas with the opening riff of “Cold Sweat”, the heavy bass grinding out across the bleachers. This was a song meant for tuba players who wanted to get away from the polkas in their heads. Those fans turned and looked at us in surprise and then they began dancing. The trumpets and saxophones picked up at their part and we rocked the stadium playing dirty and raunchy, just like our director had taught us.
Man, that was fun. So here’s “Cold Sweat” for the good ole days: