James Brown has always been a fascinating, controversial figure. From his humble childhood in Georgia, he went on to change the face of American music with hit after hit on the R&B charts. And while he was a courageous public figure in a time of national strife and adversity, his personal life took many destructive turns, leaving a long and difficult path of redemption ahead of him. For the first time in well over a decade, he speaks candidly and at length about his tumultuous, incredible journey. James Brown moves beyond his music and his much-publicized legal troubles to delve deeply into the highs and lows of his life.
Soul Brother Number One, the Godfather of Soul, the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, Mr. Dynamite-all of these titles describe just one man. James Brown is arguably the most influential African-American in popular music in the past half-century and one of the most dynamic, exhilarating performers of our time. Brown is the recipient of the American Music Awards Award of Merit, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Lifetime Achievement Award of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters. When the music industry decided to create a Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, Brown was one of the first 10 musicians inducted.
"Others may have followed in my wake, but I was the one who turned racist minstrelsy into Black soul-and by doing so, became a cultural force." So claims Brown in the opening pages of his garrulous, vernacular memoir written with the aid of Eliot (author of bios on the Eagles and Bruce Springsteen). And Brown makes a convincing argument, tracing his gutsy transformation from dirt-poor grade school dropout to gospel singer, legendary showman and musical innovator who broke the color barrier of 1950s and '60s pop by melding African-American rhythm and blues with gospel and rock to become the Godfather of Soul. Along with fascinating details about life in the music industry, Brown relates how soul music, which begins on the upbeat (traditional blues began on the downbeat) was a "statement of race, of force, of stature, of stride" and "the perfect marching music for the civil rights era." The "rock-a-soul" that Brown created (along with rockers Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and others) "was not just about rebellion-it was the rebellion itself," he says. Chronicling such peace-seeking yet controversial events as his 1968 U.S.O. tour of Vietnam and his landmark Boston Garden performance the day after Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, Brown cites his own example as a "self-made and therefore self-owned Black man." Though he sometimes attributes his legal, financial and political woes to a racist establishment too eager to judge a black man before his day in court, Brown remains a deeply positive force dedicated to the "international language of music." This is a fascinating memoir of a trailblazer in music and civil rights. Agent, Mel Berger. (Jan.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
"James Brown is the Godfather of Soul," reads the note on the back cover of this memoir-and that description says it all. The consumate performer here talks about his music, life, and, in particular, the path of his career through racially charged times in the United States. The introduction by Marc Eliot (Cary Grant) is an excellent addition that helps put Brown's thoughts in the context of the past half century. Of particular interest are the singer's views on patriotism and how his conservative politics negatively affected his standing in the black community. Thankfully, the book never comes across as a celebrity self-expose: Brown gives little attention to his streak of tabloid headlines and run-ins with the law. While the narrative is chronological, each chapter finds Brown exploring various tangents, which gives the work a conversational feel that is true to its narrator. Highly recommended for larger public libraries and recommended for smaller public libraries and for academic libraries with African American studies collections.-James E. Perone, Mount Union Coll., Alliance, OH Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.