Selling Cars With James Brown

Some time around the turn of the millennium, James Brown and his classic music were featured in a series of car adverts that played in movie theaters in the US as pre-show entertainment. The vast majority of Brown’s recordings are controlled by Universal Music, who entered into a license deal with this particular car brand (which one escapes me).

At the time I was the head of Licensing for Zomba Recordings. We had a few James Brown recordings in our catalogue, including “Living in America,” a song that in 1986 was Brown’s first top ten on the pop chart in eighteen years and, sadly, his last.

Despite his personal endorsement of the car brand referenced in the first paragraph above, I was able to secure a license deal for “Living in America” to be used in a commercial for a competing automobile. Mr. Brown was fine with that – money is money and business is business and exposure is exposure.

I’m surprised the first car company didn’t have an exclusivity clause in their agreement with the Godfather of Soul. Maybe they asked (which would be standard practice) and Mr. Brown refused. Maybe they assumed ALL of Brown’s hits were controlled by Universal, so it wouldn’t be necessary. Whatever. Not my problem.

Winston + James Brown
James Brown was born in Barnwell, South Carolina on May 3, 1933. Tunes du Jour celebrates his birthday with twenty greats from his catalogue.

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