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Music

The final time Jimmy Page met James Brown

@SamWKemp

A swift listen to Led Zeppelin’s much-maligned 1975 Houses Of The Holy track ‘The Crunge’ reveals just how infectious James Brown’s blend of funk really was. The track sees the stadium rockers put away the proto-metal riffs and folk sophistry in favour of the wicca-wicca guitar scratches and polyrhythmic beats of the JB’s. I can’t say people were blown away.

On release, ‘The Crunge’ was not looked upon favourably, with many describing it as a pale imitation of one of America’s greatest musical exports. Brown himself, we can assume, wasn’t too offended by Led Zeppelin’s efforts. Indeed, he and Jimmy Page met on numerous occasions, including when Led Zeppelin were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2006. Brown was also invited to the ceremony, just a few weeks before his passing.

In 2020, 14 years after Brown’s death at the age of 73, on Christmas day 2006, Page reminisced about the induction ceremony, taking a moment to say a few words about the funk star, who inspired countless musicians throughout his career. Page, alongside members of the Bonham family, attended the ceremony to represent Led Zeppelin. Robert Plant and John Paul Jones, however, decided not to attend. At one point, Page spotted Brown in the crowd. As he recalled, there was no indication that Brown’s health was failing. By Page’s account, the icon looked “fit, sharp, and bright” that night.

That razor-edge sharpness is what made Brown such a sensation in the first place. His clothes, his dance moves, his backing musicians – everything about his act had been whittled down to a fine point. Bracketed by the success of his 1958 hit ‘Try Me’ and his 2002 single ‘Killing Is Out, School Is In’, Brown’s 50-year career not only saw him dominate the charts in his own genre but also saw him lay the foundations for the soul, disco, and modern R&B artist of the following 20 years.

Describing his last interaction with James Brown, Jimmy Page wrote: “On this day in 2006, Led Zeppelin were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame.⁣ Led Zeppelin had been inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame, to which there was an award ceremony including James Brown, and the group were invited to attend. ⁣I attended the event, as did members of the Bonham family, but the other two members had declined. ⁣”
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Page continued: “I had met James Brown on a number of occasions and his appearance seemed no different to any time before; fit, sharp and bright, but this was to be the last time – he was to die on Christmas day that year. It was a shock having seen him so fit on this occasion. He was truly one of the giants.⁣⁣”