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DELUXE 3323; MARCH 1952



For all the songs written by men about beautiful women, it’s actually somewhat rare that they’re described in a lot of physical detail within the song itself.

There may be references to their looks in general using the standard complimentary adjectives, but songs are relatively brief and need not waste their time describing girls as if the lyrics were personal ads set to a catchy melody.

There are exceptions of course, frequently when it comes to talking about a girl’s eyes it seems, but for the most part you couldn’t draw a clear picture of who is being described simply by the listening to the lyrics to a majority of songs, however in America in 1952 the assumption for most popular music is that the woman in question invariably will be Caucasian.

Though obviously rock ‘n’ roll based on its artist and audience demographic at the time would not necessarily follow suit, it’s still a welcome sight to finally have someone being sung about for whom there is no doubt as to who she’s representing.


I Close My Eyes And Dream
Though I realize this is a side issue in regards to musical analysis, it unfortunately still needs to be stated just how important representation is in popular culture.

For those in the majority who see no lack of similar complexions, hair styles and cultural identities everywhere they look, this topic tends to rankle them so much that they’ve turned the positive term “woke” into a vile epithet in a noxious attempt to turn back the clock to the good ol’ days of societally approved racial suppression.

But their opposition to such things ironically only validates the need to have positive reflections of people in the arts and media, otherwise why would they feel compelled to horde it for themselves?

A few years down the road Chuck Berry would have two songs where the primary characters were written as black, yet he changed them so as “not to offend white listeners”. On Brown Eyed Handsome Man you can easily read between the lines so to speak to understand he’s talking about a black man, but a few years later he re-wrote an original line that was first conceived as – “there lived a colored boy named Johnny B. Goode” to “country boy” instead and as a result the character’s true identity was not so easily discerned unless you thought he was simply talking about himself.

By then the music’s crossover into white America made such uncomfortable compromises a necessity when it came to commercial exposure, but the mere fact that such concessions were required shows just how backwards this country has always been when it comes to race.

In 1952 Roy Brown was not thinking about crossing over and probably saw few if any white faces in the audience staring back at him while he was on stage, but while it may be more symbolic than anything, that still doesn’t make him singing one of his most heartfelt laments about a Brown Angel any less important in the big scheme of things.

While her skin tone may be largely irrelevant to the story within, the idea that he’d spell it out for you just who he is referring to is, if nothing else, a reassuring sign that black pride wasn’t something to conceal. Although it may appear to some that it’s a relatively minor signpost on the road to progress, every step, no matter how small, eventually adds up to something more transformative.


Nothing In This World Can Take That Woman Off My Mind
All of that, however noble the idea, doesn’t mean as much if the song itself isn’t able to stand on its own – musically, lyrically and performatively. But Roy Brown brushes aside any move to dismiss the song thanks to a well-crafted narrative and a deeply emotive delivery that works on every level.

We singled out the horns for their weak intro and intermittent responses during the vocals on the top half of this single, I’ve Got The Last Laugh Now, but here, despite featuring the usual suspect tones of the trumpet even more prominently, the horns are not a detriment to this side at all, but rather a boon to it working as well as it does from start to finish.

The trumpet’s ability to convey aching sadness has been the one redeeming facet of the instrument to date before a cadre of musicians in the 1960’s figured out how to utilize it more effectively in rock songs as a rousing mood-lifter in quick hit patterns. Here the horn is used in agonizing fashion playing just a yo-yo type of refrain – up, down, up, down – which corresponds with the surges of emotion Roy feels for his Brown Angel whom he loved so much but whose departure has left him distraught.

Catchy yet tormented, the trumpet provides the music with the internal anguish the song requires while not derailing it with long passages. Other than that recurring part it largely stays out of the way, allowing the more appropriate rock horns – tenor and baritone sax – to supply the moaning bottom in the arrangement while the jittery piano lightens the mood just enough to keep it from sinking into the abyss.

Brown for his part is pouring it on vocally, wringing every last drop of sorrow from his choked voice and if you can’t hear the inspiration for Clyde McPhatter’s even more over-the-top performance on The Bells you aren’t listening closely enough.

His work here ranks with his best in a long string of downcast performances in part because the story he gave himself rings true. There may be few details offered up as to why she left but the circumstances regarding her departure is secondary to the soul crushing feeling he has once she’s gone.

He perfectly replicates in his delivery the sense of almost physical pain brought about by the relationship crumbling, while the description of his state of mind – drinking, dreaming of reconciliation and endless days of obsessive contemplation– are vivid as can be. When he starts breaking down his futile attempts at prayer you see how good of a writer he was as this is some deep introspection for something as transient as a rock song.

Throughout it all the music is complimentary to the mood which is the way it should be because the mood here is everything.


Anything I Can Find
It should go without saying that different songs are appropriate for different contexts.

Roy Brown’s rousing anthems are ideal for listening to while immersed in a crowd where the ebullient communal spirit is fueled by the song and yet also gives back to the song by letting that reaction lift it up so it seems even more galvanizing to those experiencing it in the moment.

Meanwhile cuts like Brown Angel are best heard alone, preferably while residing in (literal or allegorical) shadows where a listener’s own private thoughts about similar circumstances can be aired without worrying about the reaction of others.

Because of that need to relate to the overriding despair found here, it’s obvious why this was not a hit, or even among his more widely referenced songs in an historical sense, but that doesn’t make it any less vital to his artistic legacy.

It may not be a comfortable song to listen to, but it is a riveting one all the same and since everybody at one time or another has felt this way over a love that has ended, it should serve as a potent reminder that while the girl – and guy – involved represent a specific community, their experiences and accompanying feelings are universal.

That’s the other frequently ignored aspect of representation that’s so vital in making the world a better place. Only by first acknowledging the surface differences can people come to realize and accept that underneath it all they are far more alike than they are different.


(Visit the Artist page of Roy Brown for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)