LIFE & LARRY BROWN - All-Star Recording of “Judgement Day”

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The music of the late Larry Brown lives on with a new all-star benefiting the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Life & Larry Brown

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The main song featured in the 2021 Oscar contender for the Best Doc Short Subject category Life & Larry Brown lives on after Brown’s untimely death with this special performance of Judgement Day featuring Vernon Reid (Living Colour), Stephen Perkins (Jane’s Addiction), Kenny Aronoff (Eric Clapton / John Fogerty), Alex Alessandroni Jr. (Stevie Wonder), Gary Allegretto (Prince) Ty Taylor (Vintage Trouble), Fabrizio Grossi (Supersonic Blues Machine), Bette Smith, King Solomon Hicks, Francis Benitez and Andrea Grossi-Benitez (The Supersonnets). All proceeds from the recording are being donated to the Southern Poverty Law Center in Brown’s name.

There are few stories more emblematic of the tragedy and triumph of American blues music than that of Larry Brown. The latest film by Scott D. Rosenbaum (The Perfect Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll and Sidemen: Long Road to Glory) is the award-winning documentary, Life & Larry Brown, which covers Brown’s life beginning in 1950’s Forsyth, GA amidst the persecution and oppression of the Jim Crow south. At eight-years-old, he was tied to a tree by five white men while he was beaten and used for "target practice." During this incident, he was shot in the face but miraculously survived. At age 13, while defending himself against yet another vicious attack, Brown was forced out of his hometown, relocating to Long Island, NY, joining his parents who had moved north in search of work.

By 29, ‘hard times’ became ‘doing hard time,’ when an altercation with his employer turned violent. In 1985 Larry Brown entered Sing Sing Correctional Facility to serve 33-to-life for the murder of his former employer. By this time, the Georgia native had already seen enough hard times to inspire a million blues songs, but it wasn’t until getting locked up that Larry Brown learned to play and write the blues. His mother Leola knew that the guitar would provide her son salvation while he was in prison. She passed away in 1993, nearly two decades before Brown was released on parole in 2018.

One of the first things Larry did after his release was find out where his mother was buried, go to her graveside, and play the song he’d written for her. After his release, Larry’s mission was to bring joy to the world through his music. He became a regular fixture playing his music in New York’s Washington Square Park and in the subways. Larry Brown’s long road to redemption was tragically cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic. Just two years after his release, he passed away from complications due to the novel coronavirus on April 20th, 2020.

In the wake of Brown’s death, Rosenbaum & longtime friend and producer Fabrizio Grossi (Billy F. Gibbons, George Clinton Supersonic Blues Machine) orchestrated an exciting and passionate team effort to share Brown’s music, bring attention to systemic racial injustice and raise money for the Southern Poverty Law Center. Persecution, prosecution and the pandemic disproportionately impact people of color, and Larry Brown’s story is inseparable from all three. All of the musicians offered their time and talents for free after seeing the moving fillm.

Originally Larry Brown wrote “Judgement Day” for his late mother. But through the filter of the all-star lineup, the tune becomes a juggernaut mix of Blues, Rhythm & Blues and Gospel Jubilee. Recorded through socially and sonically distanced means, the upbeat interpretation offers a fresh take on Brown’s ballad, something Rosenbaum and Grossi believe would’ve brought a real smile to Brown’s face.

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Jamie Roberts