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RIP James Brown


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The other day I saw an ad in our local paper for a James Brown concert this Wednesday. Thoughts of Christmas and football and whatever I read in the paper were swirling around in my mind, but I put them aside for a few moments to consider that it was still possible to see James Brown in concert. After all, this guy is known as the most electrifying performer of all time, and "Cold Sweat" is in regular rotation in my iPod. Two of the 3 best concerts I've ever seen could not have happened without JB's influence - George Clinton and Prince.

I thought back to an article I read where John Mayer explained how important it was to go see B.B. King. He argued that if Ray Charles were to come back to life, he'd sell out arenas with people who realized what they missed and didn't want to make that mistake twice. Because B.B. tours all the time, however, it creates the impression that you can see him anytime, and that flawed reasoning is exactly why I denied myself the opportunity to see the legendary James Brown.

Maybe it's because he died on Christmas, but the media is not swirling with the news that James Brown is dead. The corporate radio stations are pre-programmed, so they stuck to whatever was in their computers. I didn't find out he died until I heard an interview on NPR with Maceo Parker, who talked about the cape routine and how James changed the way people thought of the word "black" when used to describe a human (a giant leap past the word "negro'). Maceo talked about how James preached pride and enthusiasm, and how he got better as the years went on.

JB's death caught us off guard, so there were no obits prepared, but it would have been nice to see a tribute to him during the Eagles/Cowboys football game the day of his death. I know they had the open with Pink in the can, and I'm sure they spent a lot of money on it, but if I had the power, I would have opened with some great NFL video cut to "Out Of Sight" and end with a shot of the cape and the dates of his life. We don't need to mourn his death, but we should celebrate his music, especially in these times when so much of what we hear, and so much of what we do, is utterly devoid of Soul. I'm going to make seeing B.B. King a priority.

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James Brown's body to lie at NYC Apollo By LARRY NEUMEISTER, Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK - James Brown's music career will come full circle when his body is brought to rest on the stage of the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem, where he made his explosive debut, and the world changed to his beat.

The public will be permitted on Thursday to visit the Apollo to have one more look at a man who helped steer modern musical tastes toward rhythm-and-blues, funk, hip-hop, disco and rap, the Rev. Al Sharpton said Tuesday. The reverend has been a close friend of Brown for decades.

"It would almost be unthinkable for a man who lived such a sensational life to go away quietly," Sharpton said in an interview from Georgia, where he was making funeral arrangements with Brown's children.

Sharpton said the public Apollo viewing will be followed by a private ceremony Friday in Brown's hometown, Augusta, Ga., and another public ceremony, officiated by Sharpton, a day later at the James Brown Arena there.

"His greatest thrill was always the lines around the Apollo Theater," Sharpton said of the Harlem landmark. "I felt that James Brown in all the years we talked would have wanted one last opportunity to let the people say goodbye to him and he to the people."

Brown, known as the Godfather of Soul, died of congestive heart failure on Christmas morning in Atlanta at age 73. He had been scheduled to perform on New Year's Eve in Manhattan at B.B. King's blues club.

Mourners paid their respects to Brown in Augusta on Tuesday, filing past his statue, which was draped in an American flag and a red scarf.

Flowers were left at the base of the statue in tribute to the late singer.

"There were some troubled times in his life, like everybody else, but he meant well," said John Arthur Thomas, 73, of Daleville, Ala., who stopped by the statue. "He is a legend. There will never be another James Brown."

Sharpton said he and Brown's children talked Tuesday about the moment after the Rev. Martin Luther King's assassination when Brown stepped to a microphone and told gathering crowds of angry people to go home.

"And they went home," Sharpton said. "For them to riot for a man who lived a life of peace would send the wrong message. He always said he was surprised and humbled that he had that influence."

Sharpton said Brown was "always very sensitive as to how people could be remembered."

The Apollo began recruiting and showcasing talent in 1934. Early acts included "Pigmeat" Markham and Jackie "Moms" Mabley. Before long, Lena Horne, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Aretha Franklin and Brown were making their debuts.

Apollo audiences cheered the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Michael Jackson, Fats Waller, Fats Domino, Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, Sammy Davis Jr. and Nina Simone. Comedians such as Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor performed there, too.

Brown, who lived in Beech Island, S.C., near the Georgia line, won a Grammy for lifetime achievement in 1992, as well as Grammys in 1965 for "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" (best R&B recording) and for "Living in America" in 1987 (best R&B vocal performance, male.) He had a brief but memorable role as a manic preacher in the 1980 movie "The Blues Brothers," starring Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi.

"Fortunate were those of us who were able to engage his talents and witness his latest shows. The greatest on-stage revue of music in the history of our planet," Aykroyd said in a statement released by his publicist.

Sharpton said Brown always knew his place in history.

"He used to tell me, `There are two American originals, Elvis and me,'" Sharpton said. "'Elvis is gone, and I've got to carry on.'"


Associated Press writers Don Schanche Jr., Harry R. Weber and Greg Bluestein in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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Fans honor 'Godfather of Soul' at Apollo By LARRY NEUMEISTER,

NEW YORK - A white, horse-drawn carriage carried the body of music legend James Brown through the streets of Harlem on Thursday to the Apollo Theater, where a sea of people waited to say farewell to the "Godfather of Soul."

Friends and fans walked behind the caisson in the street, singing the chorus of Brown's anthem, "Say it Loud — I'm Black and I'm Proud."

Just like when Brown was alive, the raucous throng of thousands cheered and applauded as pallbearers lifted his gold casket and carried it inside, for Brown, who died of heart failure Christmas morning, to lie in repose on the stage where he made his 1956 debut.

As New Yorker Norman Brand waited for the procession to arrive, the 55-year-old recalled hearing Brown's anthem for the first time in his native Alabama.

"It really changed the attitude of most black people. It was like a wake up call. Before that, if you were called black, it was like an insult," Brand said. "Just one song and one word can change a whole situation."

The Rev. Al Sharpton, Brown's close friend, raced through the night in a van with the late singer's casket, arriving in New York about three hours late a day after leaving Georgia, where the 73-year-old singer died. Logistical problems had made it impossible to catch a flight, he said.

"He was a superstar for common people, and I wanted to make sure that common people got to see him one last time," Sharpton said late Wednesday. "It's going to be a royal day in Harlem."

As the carriage rolled toward the Apollo shortly after noon on Thursday, Sharpton walked behind it.

A private ceremony was planned for Brown at a church near Augusta, Ga., his boyhood hometown, and another public viewing was scheduled Saturday at Augusta's James Brown Arena.

Outside the Apollo, fans began lining up shortly after midnight for the chance to say goodbye to a man whose hits like "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" and "I Got You (I Feel Good)" left an indelible mark on soul, R&B, funk, disco and rap music.

The Apollo became famous for launching the careers of performers such as Brown, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald, and as a showcase for superstars Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and a young Michael Jackson.

It had been used for public viewings several times before, but always for employees.

On Thursday, the marquee outside read: "Rest in Peace Apollo Legend The Godfather of Soul James Brown, 1933-2006," and Brown's epic "Live at the Apollo" album streamed from the marquee speakers.

"He seemed like family, a friend of mine," said New Yorker Brenda Harper, who was the first to arrive at the Apollo early Thursday.

She recalled seeing Brown in concert 14 years earlier. "I jumped on the stage and he danced with me. I danced with the 'Godfather' that day," she said.

Edith Stewart flew to New York from Atlanta for the Apollo Theater viewing.

"I loved James Brown. He did a lot of things for people all over. Just a couple of days ago, in Augusta, he was passing out gifts. And then he's gone," she said.

Brown continued to work to the end, dying less than a week before he was to perform New Year's Eve in Manhattan at B.B. King's blues club. Chaka Khan, the Grammy Award-winning rhythm and blues performer, will play instead.

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