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The One

The Life and Music of James Brown

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


The definitive biography of James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, with fascinating findings on his life as a Civil Rights activist, an entrepreneur, and the most innovative musician of our time
Playing 350 shows a year at his peak, with more than forty Billboard hits, James Brown was a dazzling showman who transformed American music. His life offstage was just as vibrant, and until now no biographer has delivered a complete profile. The One draws on interviews with more than 100 people who knew Brown personally or played with him professionally. Using these sources, award-winning writer RJ Smith draws a portrait of a man whose twisted and amazing life helps us to understand the music he made.

The One delves deeply into the story of a man who was raised in abject-almost medieval-poverty in the segregated South but grew up to earn (and lose) several fortunes. Covering everything from Brown's unconventional childhood (his aunt ran a bordello), to his role in the Black Power movement, which used "Say It Loud (I'm Black and Proud)" as its anthem, to his high-profile friendships, to his complicated family life, Smith's meticulous research and sparkling prose blend biography with a cultural history of a pivotal era.

At the heart of The One is Brown's musical genius. He had crucial influence as an artist during at least three decades; he inspires pity, awe, and revulsion. As Smith traces the legend's reinvention of funk, soul, R&B, and pop, he gives this history a melody all its own.

From Publishers Weekly

Nov 28, 2011 – Drawing on in-depth interviews with Brown s many friends and music partners, journalist Smith powerfully chronicles Brown s rapid rise from his early days in Augusta, Ga., singing gospel through the pinnacle of his fame in the late 1960s and early 1970s to Brown s sharp fall from grace in the 1990s with headline-grabbing arrests for domestic battery. Brown loved the spectacle of religion that the famous religious itinerant preacher, Daddy Grace, put on at the United House of Prayer in Augusta, and he learned rhythm from the house band there. Later, in his own shows, Brown got so caught up in the spectacle of entertaining that he became a force unto himself whose hungry passion and energy expressed forcefully and fitfully through his trembling dancing and call-and response singing transformed his audiences. Brown s music still sounds so alive and continues to mystify because Brown brought others into a world he created that made his art a total experience. Through the pulsing rhythms of Papa s Got a Brand New Bag, the funky, hypnotic beat of (Get on the) Good Foot, and the Black Power anthem, Say It Loud, Brown, as Smith demonstrates, reshaped rhythm and blues, pumping it full of an energy that moved listeners to ecstasy. Smith s compelling and detailed portrait of one of our greatest musicians reveals affectionately and honestly the reasons we jump up every time I Feel Good comes on the radio.

Customer Reviews

Terrific Book: it's on the One

As a Black Catholic school kid, growing up in the 60's, surrounded by icons that didn't look like me, I "found" James Brown and his music from kids in my neighborhood who told me I wasnt really Black. They turned me onto WWRL and WLIB (New York). I listened. I heard James, loud and clear. I bought 45's with his music etched on plastic disks, and they became etched in my brain. What I didn't have, I learned from him: how to listen to the rhythm of your soul, and tell it like it is. I became Black and Proud, because he exhorted me to do so.

40+ years later, I'm still a big JB fan. This book did wonders for me. The author traced his history and I traced my biography as I read it. This man of many contradictions created an art form that will never, ever be duplicated, no matter how much it's sampled or riffed. When I hear James breathe deep, huffing and puffing on certain records or groan or count "it off", I feel enlivened and while there are challenges and travails, I feel good, like a sex machine, I know that there it is, and living in America can be better than I imagined. Still Black, and still very Proud.

Thanks for writing this excellent book. It's a treasure.

Dr. Leroy D. Nunery II

The One
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  • $14.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Biographies & Memoirs
  • Published: Mar 15, 2012
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
  • Print Length: 464 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.5 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings

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