James Brown Throws Down in Zaire

In 1974, a DC-10 took off from the U.S. en route to Kinshasa, Zaire. The Rumble in the Jungle was about to go down – a heavyweight fight between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali. It was Don King’s first big fight as a promoter. To precede the fight, a music festival was planned. So aboard that DC-10, not only were Muhammad Ali and his crew on board, but all of the musicians too. And their gear. And their wardrobe. Making the flight were Bill Withers, B.B. King, the Pointer Sisters, the Jazz Crusaders, Sister Sledge, James Brown and his crew (Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker, and others), and even more musicians.

Brown and his gang were headlining the festival, and as you’ll hear, he and his great band were in prime form. The musicians spent a couple of weeks in Zaire, staying for free in luxury hotels, soaking up the nightlife, and having a great time. As Fred Wesley said in this article he wrote for the Seattle Times, “I think maybe some of the economic problems Zaire is experiencing today are a residual effect of that 1974 music festival.”

James Brown
Live in Zaire
September, 1974

ZIP (mp3s)

1. Intro – The Payback
2. Soulpower
3. The Boss
4. Make It Funky
5. Doing It To Death
6. Bewildered
7. (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine
8. Cold Sweat – I Can’t Stand It
9. Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag
10. Gimme Some More
11. Get On The Good Foot
12. Zaire Soul
13. Sax Solo (Maceo)
14. Try Me
15. For The Love Of Money
16. The Payback (reprise)
17. My Thang
18. Say It Loud, I’m Black And I’m Proud
19. Please Please Please

TRIVIA: Do you know who won the Rumble in the Jungle? Ali (32 yrs old) or Foreman (24 yrs old)? Well, one of ’em went down in the 8th round. You can watch Round 8 here to find out…

DVD: I just Netflixed an Oscar winning documentary about the Rumble in the Jungle, which not only documents the fight, but the music festival as well. It’s called When We Were Kings. You can find out more about it by clicking the DVD cover. I’ll be watching it soon.

Foreman vs. Frazier (1973) -Before George Foreman faced Muhammad Ali in Zaire, he had risen from from the ranks since his gold medal victory at the 1968 Olympics. In 1973, he faced Joe Frazier, completely dominating, with the fight being called in the 2nd round. Check out George Foreman, before the Grill ®.


  • Jeff

    For a beautiful song about Muhammad Ali, check out “Muhammad Ali (the Meaning of Christmas)” by Greg Trooper.

    ‘I am the greatest,’ he said with a grin. /’He was talking about you, not about him.’ “

  • Ben Sansum

    My May resolution is to comment on the blogs I love, but never show any appreciation too.

    Pete, I ended up here while re-evaluating my love for Prince prior to seeing him live for the first time at the 02 in London last year. Since then I have loved much of the music you have introduced me to – so thanks for that.

    and thanks in particular for this set from the master – I have been dancing round the office all afternoon with a colleague from Somalia who has never heard James Brown before – what an introduction!

    Thanks again – all your work is much appreciated in Bristol, UK!



  • Pete

    Ben – thanks mate! Always good to know there’s someone out there enjoying what Michael and I are doing…

    I wish I worked in your kind of office…. keep on dancing!

  • Alberto

    Also related to the ‘rumble in the jungle’ I humbly suggest a book from Norman Mailer, called ‘The Fight’, focused on the preparation of it on both Ali & Foreman camps & of course with a brilliant description of the fight itself.
    Unfortunately no mention about the festival, but luckily you are there to complete the picture.

  • dean

    I downloaded this a few days and finally got around to listen to it. Damn, what a show! Thanks for making it available, it doesn’t get much better than this.

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