JAMES BROWN: The Godfather of Soul by James with Bruce Tucker Brown

JAMES BROWN: The Godfather of Soul

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Maybe this book should have been given another one of Brown's titles: The Hardest Working Man in Show Business. If the story of his life could be reduced to a single theme, it would be that Brown will sweat, suffer or die before he lets another entertainer outperform him. Brown's coauthor, Bruce Tucker, has wisely left in the flavor of the subject's speech. For example, when Brown says something was BAD! you know it was very, very good. And, as befits his life and work, Brown discusses ""funk"" and ""the raw gutbucket thing"" with the same seriousness that Stravinsky would use to discuss neo-classicism. Some of the idioms are surprising. Certain characters are consistently addressed as ""Mr.,"" especially if they seem to be older and white. The man who wrote ""Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud"" seems to prefer ""persons of nay origin"" or, in political contexts, ""Third World people"" to describe blacks or minorities. Brown's story--a childhood in a Georgia whorehouse, followed by a stint as a juvenile jailbird, followed by superstardom--is told simply and directly. Nobody forces much analysis or introspection. Because he admits to few faults, Brown tends to sound a trifle too blameless and pure in some passages, and he comes close to pomposity when describing his very real political influence over his fans. His wives, his children, his life offstage, are mentioned chiefly in the context of his entertainment career. But that career is described in full and loving detail. Brown is really giving a history of his music, and he supplies lots of names, dates and places. However, if someone isn't already familiar with his tremendous output, this may not be the best way to learn, because reading about records like ""Hot Pants (She Got to Use What She Got to Get What She Wants)"" is not the same as hearing them. Big on entertainment, backward in other categories, Brown's book would be the ideal accompaniment to a multi-record set of his hits, or a full-length video of his life.

Pub Date: Nov. 7th, 1986
Publisher: Macmillan