The Life and Music of James Brown
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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.
Publishers Weekly Review
© Publishers Weekly
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