My home state of Georgia
is where the foundation of modern popular music was laid: Little Richard
, Ray Charles
, and James Brown
. And many more
And then, there's Weeping Tommy Brown
. You've never heard of him, but you can be pretty sure that Richard, and Ray, and James had heard of him. He brought the crying, weeping, scream into modern music
, before Johnny Ray
, before Little Richard, before anyone else he was delivering unhinged grief over lost love
. Soul in music, you might say, in 1949.
I saw him in 1957. He sang his heart out so completely that he collapsed to the floor. While the band vamped behind him, an attendant came out and helped him to his feet and, as Tommy Brown recovered, the realization of his loss overcame him and the screaming returned. He tried to leave the stage, but he couldn't abandon his anguish. He sang the chorus of "Weeping and Crying" again and again, falling, rising, falling again, until finally, he tumbled from the stage
The band dropped out. The spotlight sent out its feelers and finally shone against the front of the stage. An arm appeared, twisted in anguish, reaching, grasping, the band boomed out, and, amazingly, Tommy Brown rose from the floor, clawed his way back on the stage, and sang the chorus one more time before leaving at last, emotionally exhausted, as were we all.