It may be divine providence or just plain luck that Brown published this book before he got arrested in Georgia and ran into all that trouble on drug charges and stuff. His life was complex enough before, and there was plenty of story to tell. The aftermath might just have made it sordid. Most of the time, the autobiography of a star is probably not worth reading, but James Brown manages enough honesty and soul-searching that this is an exception. There’s all kinds of stuff in here. For example, did you know that the shouters-along on “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud” were for the most part not black? Brown hustled them up at the last minute and could only find white and Asian kids. Did you know that Elvis Presley almost did a recording with Brown? Read why that didn’t happen. There’s lots more, too, presenting clearly James Brown’s interesting mix of social conscience, artistic power, and high-strung self-promotion.
The real James Brown – in his own words
The feel of the book is very much as if Brown is there in your living room or wherever, telling you the story of his life. It’s quite a story. “The hardest working man in show business” tells of his early days in gospel, his seminal relationship with Little Richard as well as the influence of Ray Charles and others in the early soul scene, and the story behind a lot of the records and performances. Read about his views on and tangential involvement with black power, politics, the way to make a band succeed, and what the whole soul revolution was about. Brown innovated in a lot of ways we take for granted now, being the first to make a “live” album a success, and a man who was involved in ideas and musical innovations that were controversial in their time but today are all part of the norm. One gets the feel that it was James Brown, not any kingmaker, who was the brains and the driving force behind his success. This is a classic. Pick it up and check it out.
James Brown: The Godfather of Soul (James Brown Biography)
by James Brown
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Da Capo Press (January 2003)