While the University observed the winter holidays, the United States suffered the loss of two great men. Within 48 hours, James Brown and former President Gerald R. Ford passed away. While these men lived extremely different lives, they both played a profound role in the history of this country.
Ford is often associated with the dubious honor of being the only person to hold both the position of vice president and president without being elected to either post. Gerald Ford’s greatest quality was his contrast to Nixon. Ford’s personality seemed very genuine, and it was in perfect contrast to Nixon in wake of the Watergate scandal. Although he was much criticized for pardoning Nixon within a month of becoming president, Ford’s action ultimately helped remove Nixon from the center of attention. Ultimately, Ford was unable to get re-elected and lost to Jimmy Carter in 1976.
James Brown rose out of poverty to become one of the most influential musicians in American history. After a short stint in jail for breaking into a car, Brown began his career performing with Bobby Byrd’s group, the Avons. He soon went solo with his signature dancing and high-pitched vocals. In the early ’60s, against the wishes of his record label, Brown recorded his “Live at the Apollo” album which catapulted him to widespread fame. His career included countless live performances and chart-topping singles. Despite living in a racially divided country, Brown’s music had wide appeal. His synthesis of soul music with strong beats and tight rhythms spawned the birth of funk and influenced countless R&B and hip-hop musicians.
Although his later life was marked by prevalent drug use and another jail sentence, Brown had recently turned things around and was doing live performances up until his death.
While James Brown and Gerald Ford lived distinctly different lives, they both played important roles in this country’s history. They will both be missed.