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James Brown (#110 of 3)

Let’s Get It On The T.A.M.I. Show

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Let’s Get It On: The T.A.M.I. Show
Let’s Get It On: The T.A.M.I. Show

Long-admired concert film The T.A.M.I. Show finally comes to DVD next Tuesday, almost 50 years after its original release in the gloriously named but short-lived Electronovision screening format, and the ensuing half-century has loaded the movie with enough cultural weight to nearly overwhelm the legendary performances therein. One can’t avoid mentioning, for instance, that this harmonious and mutually admiring lineup of black and white musicians took place in October 1964, the exact midpoint between the Beatles’s Ed Sullivan appearances and the passage of the 1965 Civil Rights Act. And the influence of T.A.M.I. on future generations of musicians and concert filmmakers remains indelible, to the point where it’s hard to watch James Brown or Marvin Gaye—one absolutely on fire and the other almost boyishly bashful—and not see the precursors to Prince, Michael Jackson, or a hundred other subsequent R&B acts.

These, like so many in T.A.M.I., are benchmark musical performances by now-confirmed geniuses from a time when they were simply pop stars, and famous primarily among teenagers at that. So perhaps the most eye-opening element of this film, decades after most of its performers have been enshrined and immortalized in the popular consciousness, is the way that director Steve Binder and a team of editors, cameramen, and choreographers manage to wrangle these artists into a document that’s expressly designed to avoid any semblance of reverence or calm appraisal. For all its music, T.A.M.I. is perhaps most effective and striking as an example of pure, craven audience exploitation.