Soul Survivor - The James Brown Story

Uploaded by FaulFerkel on 05.10.2011

# This is a man`s world
# This is a man`s world
# But it wouldn`t be nothing
# Nothing
# Nothing
# Nothing...
`You might say l`ve got a marker on my back l never knew was there.
`They fixed it where l couldn`t see it myself.`
# This is a man`s world...
`l was marked in many different ways, with names, for example,
`and each one has a different story behind it.`
# This is a man`s world...
`As a kid growing up in a whorehouse l was called Little Junior.
`As a teenager in prison, they called me Music Box.
`On the road in the `50s, l was Mr Dynamite,
`the hardest-working man in show business.`
James Brown had the first sense of street credibility,
because he took it to the streets, the ghettos and the black community first.
# Without a woman or a girl #
`ln the `60s, when l said, ``Die on your feet, don`t live on your knees,``
`l became Soul Brother Number One.`
He not only had the number one record,
he had changed the whole cultural paradigm of black America.
He wasn`t a hot artist, he was a way of life.
`Then they called me the Godfather Of Soul.`
He could be a tyrant, he could be generous.
He could be extremely patient and tolerant
and he could be demanding beyond reason.
`And they called me His Bad Self
`when the lRS and the police came down on me.`
# You make me feel so good l wanna scream
# People...
`ln the `80s and `90s l was known as the Minister Of The New Super-Heavy Funk
`to a new generation of hip-hoppers and rappers.`
ln the beginning was the heavens and the earth,
and there was James Brown, right there,
with a big ``E`` on his forehead for ``Entertainment``.
- # When l say - # Can l scream...scream?
- # Let me scream - # l heard, l heard a scream
# Let me scream
He deserved every title placed on him, from Soul Brother Number One
to the King Of Soul, the Minister Of Super-Heavy Heavy Funk,
and the Godfather Of Soul.
`l`ve been called many names in my time,
`but my legal name, the one l`m known by today, is James Brown.
`l first came to Augusta, Georgia back in 1 938.
`My Aunt Honey ran a gambling house here.
`Some people called that a crime. l called it survival.`
lt`s funny when you remember what it means, being almost 70 years old.
l remember when it was almost like new.
And you see those houses torn down now, it`s unbelievable.
This is really the beginning for me. This is where everything started.
On this side of the street, ladies and gentlemen,
it was white.
Everybody was white who lived here. And we was black, we lived over there.
We lived that close together in two different communities.
`l lived in Honey`s house, on Augusta`s south side.
`That`s when they called me Little Junior.
`We got our own gang started there, me and Mr Thomas Cook.`
What you say, my man?
He remembers it was my aunt that raised me.
Boy and Honey and all of them.
- ls Willie Mae doing OK? - Yeah, she`s OK.
(lnterviewer) What went on in that house? How did she make a living?
Right out, right there?
How`d she make a living?
Selling... She sold untaxed liquor, unstamped liquor.
And we called it a house of ill repute.
That`s what was happening there.
We used to go hustling the soldiers in 1 940, 1 941 , and go get `em a girl.
Cos we had to have money.
l danced where you see that sign. l danced for the soldiers.
l picked up, l don`t know, l guess about $6.
lt was $5 for rent, and l gave all the money to Miss Honey.
1 8 people in the house. You couldn`t do nothing.
lt had an impact on him. Why wouldn`t it?
You have to sing and dance, thank God for your talent,
but you have to sing and dance for nickels and dimes to feed a family.
He`s been hungry, he`s been poor, he`s lived in the slums,
he`s lived in a place that wasn`t fixed up and wasn`t lit up.
We all have, l have too.
And he don`t want to go back.
`l was born in a one-room shack near Barnwell, South Carolina.
`The year was 1 933.
`l guess we lived about as poor as you could be.
`l remember my mother standing at the door of the cabin ready to leave.
```You keep the child, Joe``, she said to my daddy.
`l didn`t see her again for 20 years.
`l was four years old.`
lt was my daddy`s business. Why they broke up, l don`t want to know.
When they broke up, l`m sorry l was the baggage they were worrying about.
God says, ``Vengeance is mine.`` l can`t punish my mother and my daddy.
`The best thing l remember is the 1 0-cent harmonica my father gave me.
`He did a lot of turpentine work.
`There were pine trees all around the cabin and he worked them.
`My daddy was gone a lot, travelling the turpentine camps.
`So l was left to myself.
`l played with sticks and with doodlebugs.
`Years later, l recorded a tune called ``Doodle Bug``.
# Doodle bug...
`Being alone in the woods like that, having nobody to talk to,
`gave me my own mind.
`No matter what came my way after that,
`prison, personal problems, government harassment,
`l could fall back on myself.`
l`ve been with him to the backwoods of South Carolina where he grew up.
He spent a lot of time alone.
His father left him alone, his mother had gone till he was in his 20s.
Somewhere in them woods, a spirit got in him of determination
that he either won`t let go or it won`t let him go,
but both of them haven`t let the world go for the last 4 7 years.
He decided, ``One day l`m gonna be some... l`m going to show everyone.
``l`m going to show myself first.
``l know what l can do, but l`ll show everyone l can do it.``
Yeah, l don`t want nobody to give me nothing.
l`ll go to work. Don`t give me nothing, you understand me?
But give me the chance to earn it. Don`t give me a handout, give me a way out.
# So alone, gee l hate to see you go
# You mean the world to me, you know You just said so...
`What helped me find a way out in those days was music.
`l`d met another kid called Leon Austin.
`He showed me how to play piano with both hands.`
He got interested in playing the piano
because the piano was just sitting there in the house
and we both really was learning.
You know, he...
l would play the boogie-woogie with just three keys, you know like... that.
He would always add something to it as he learned it.
We stayed there until we got the boogie-woogie down.
l wanted to perfect boogie-woogie.
lt was big at the time, but you`d better not be caught doing it in church.
`ln order to use their piano,
`l started cleaning out Trinity Baptist Church before services.
`There was gospel singing and hand-clapping,
`and the preacher would really get down.
`l`m sure a lot of my stage show came out of the church.`
l think James Brown was tremendously influenced by preachers.
When l hear a preacher looking for a note...
And when he finds that note,
then he would work on that one note for a long time.
And when he wanted to take it higher he`d say, ``Take it up a little higher.
``A little higher,`` then ``Higher!``
And ``Higher!``
The next thing you know he goes ``Higher!`` and it becomes a scream.
# Please, please, please, please, please, please...
(Continues singing)
When somebody screams ``Ow!`` it was pain, mental pain
and physical pain.
There ain`t but two pains, mental and physical.
You had to think about that one for a while. There`s not but two.
Tears of joy people cry because they`re happy, but it`s not pain.
They`re happy. Happy is happy and unhappy is unhappy.
There`s only two, physical and mental.
l think personally l`d rather have physical pain.
l can go to the doctor and take care of that, but that mental pain...
The Lord gotta take care of that. l can`t do it myself.
Mental pain comes from White Man having two water fountains.
At a petrol station or any major place we had to go to the bathroom,
they had ``Ladies``, which was white, and ``Men``, which was white.
That`s where that pain comes from.
```Yes, sir``, ``No, sir`` is what my daddy would say in front of white people.
`But l didn`t accept the life he accepted.
`When they took him away to the navy during World War ll,
`l started to be a street kid, a little thug.
`l was listening to all the sounds around me,
`from street bands to Louis Jordan and Duke Ellington.
`But what l really wanted to do was box.
`My idol was Beau Jack, lightweight champion of the world,
`who, just like me, started making his living on Augusta`s Broad Street.
`Back then, l saw myself as a kind of Robin Hood.
`l started stealing from the cars of the rich to give to the poor
`because l`d been sent home from school for having insufficient clothes.`
That`s the school l went to, anyway. Silus X Floyd.
So l started stealing... to look good at school.
That`s that Robin Hood effect again, in reverse.
Cos biblically it don`t belong to you, you know you`re wrong,
but you`re dealing with Man, so...
l couldn`t have none.
So l stole from the rich to take care of the poor and me.
Cos l was poorer than they was.
`One day they caught me, and l got 8 to 1 6 years.
`lf you don`t allow a man an education, don`t put him in jail for being ignorant.
`That`s what they did to me when l was 1 6 years old.`
They put me in prison.
l had the hardship, the hard knocks and l just stayed right there with everything,
but music keep it alive.
`l hadn`t been there a couple of months before l started a gospel group.
`You feel that spirit when you sing.`
(Gospel singing)
`ln gospel music, you have to learn the different parts,
`and how to put them together.`
The only person they talked about in the whole camp was Music Box,
which was James Brown. He had something special.
l knew if he had the chance, he could really go, go, go.
And of course, he did.
# l-l-l feel, l feel that old feeling coming on
# l-l-l...
`l joined Bobby Byrd`s group after early parole.
`We did gigs all around the area.
`lt was 1 952 and l was 1 9 years old.
`And l started dating Bobby`s sister Sarah.`
He liked me.
l think l kind of liked him, probably.
l was young. l don`t know.
But anyway, yeah, we went out. We had a little thing going.
Oh, my goodness. Anyway, James had a good voice for singing, he really did.
But there were others that did too, that could really sing.
James always wanted to be out.
He`d think no one else could sing as well as he could.
So when we went up against each other, you know, with lead parts,
he would always say after the programme was over,
``Sarah, you tried to out-sing me.`` l said, ``No, you tried to out-sing me!``
``No, we gotta agree now, you can`t be out-singing me.`` That`s how he was.
We had a thing where he would take a lead part and l would take a lead part,
and we`d be back and forth with the gospel thing.
lf l did something fantastic,
he`d try to do something more fantastic, and a lot of times he did.
His determination was to be someone.
He would have been at the top of the line no matter what he did,
whether it was baseball, football or whatever.
He had that determination that he would be the best.
Boxing, l could have been very good at it. l was real, real good. But... wasn`t where l wanted to go.
Baseball was my first choice. l was first on baseball.
But l heard the girls scream when l sang, and everything else was finished.
# Since you been gone
# l drink and gamble every night
# Oh...
Everything l`ve ever attended in public, l saw something l could use in my act.
The cape, that came from the wrestler Gorgeous George.
Many years ago. Wore curlers in his hair and wore a cape.
But l took it a little farther.
l had a towel, you know.
lt wasn`t show business, but more or less like you have in a spirit in a church.
James Brown said, ``l`m gonna express myself in a raw, untamed way,``
which most artists wouldn`t do before him.
People wanted to be accepted. James Brown wanted to be felt.
His scream, his moan, his groan,
all of that was, ``l wanna express myself even if you`re not comfortable with it.
``l have to release this.``
And when he released it, he released a scream in all of us
that had so much scream built up in us, but never had the nerve to let it go.
# Please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please
# Please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please
# Please, please, please
# Darling, please
# Oh
# Please, please...
Until then, things like ``Please, Please, Please``, an incredibly emotional ballad,
had defined who he was.
This idea of soul music being stripped down of the sentimentality
and stripped down to the `50-ish flourishes and how horns were used,
it became much more elemental.
That`s when you like James Brown.
The way l put my chords, you hear it raw.
Them cats listening, ``You hear that?`` They can`t believe what they`re hearing.
They can`t believe it, cos l went by the ear.
Melody became a very small part of what it was about,
and that`s where you get this cliche, the Eddie Murphy routine of ``Ow!``
The definition of James Brown as a wailing character over these vamps
began during that era. lt really redefined what soul music was.
`l recorded that song in 1 956 and it was my first hit.
`Same year Elvis had his first hit with ``Hound Dog``.`
l had fun singing ``Please, Please, Please``.
l sung it seven years before l got a chance to record it.
Sid Nathan, my manager at the record company and owner,
he thought l said it too often. l said it 26 times before he got started.
He said, ``Nobody`s gonna buy a song like that, James!``
He didn`t like it. He said, ``Take a listen to this.
``All you is saying is please, please, please. Where`s the rest of the stuff?``
He didn`t like it at all.
`But that was the song
`that really put us on the map.`
The first two or three thousand records
just had ``The Famous Flames``.
Then it became ``James Brown With The Famous Flames``.
Then it had ``James Brown And The Famous Flames``.
The problems started
when it became ``James Brown And His Famous Flames``.
That`s where the problems started, right there.
There was a lot of dissension in that situation.
At some point you realise certain people just have a gift.
And the gift isn`t just the music.
The gift is some kind of ambition connected with assertion,
and the fact that they just don`t take no for an answer.
You just got to know the pros and cons of where you`re going,
and don`t get mad, don`t get angry, get smart.
His background, experience, sawy and street smarts served him very well.
- # Try me - # Try me
# Try me
# And your love...
`We were doing one-nighters all over the South,
`and l was stage-testing my own material.
```Try Me`` was another song they didn`t want me to record.
`So l paid for the demo myself,
`and it went straight to number one in the R&B charts.`
- # Hold me - # Hold me
# Oh, now, hold me
# l want you right there
# Right there
# By my side...
`But we were always struggling to compete with one man,
`our biggest local rival in Georgia.
`l wanted to run that Little Richard out of town.`
He always wanted to hit me in my mouth, to hit me on my nose.
He liked to box, but l was no prizefighter. l wasn`t Joe Louis.
We had a rivalry thing. We`d outdo each other.
l`d wear fancier clothes than him, l`d get shoes like my shoes here.
l started him dressing like this.
l`ve always dressed like this, fancy shoes, fancy suits, but he didn`t.
l was more flamboyant than he. But after it got so...
courageous and contagious, he had to do it to compete with me.
l`d jump off the amplifier and everyone would go, ``Oh, Richard!``
but l didn`t care, cos l had to get him.
`Until now, my audiences had been almost exclusively black,
`but now white kids were coming too.
`We had always, since the early days,
`refused to play segregated houses.`
When l first started with him,
we`d perform in the various cities
and he`d show me different men, the promoters, black promoters.
He said, ``Mr Bobbit, you see that man there, Mr John Doe?`` l said, ``Yes.``
``That man wouldn`t play me.``
l said, ``Why not, with all your talent?`` He said, ``l was too black and too ugly.``
America was apartheid. ln certain areas of the country, it was like South Africa.
lt was apartheid, you couldn`t...
l remember when we`d be travelling, and James too, we couldn`t eat.
We could be hungry but we couldn`t go into no restaurant.
We had to ask if they would please sell us half a sandwich,
out of the kitchen door of the restaurant.
You couldn`t go to the bathroom, even if you were sick. You`d go behind a tree.
You couldn`t stay in a hotel, however tired you was. You slept in your car.
l`d get to auditoriums and l couldn`t use the dressing room.
l had to dress in my car.
l reserved the right to say, ``You`re all a bunch of...``
l won`t say that word, it`s overused, but, ``You`re all a bunch of them...``
and then go out on stage and, ``Ow! l feel good!``
l do feel good, they wanna see me.
# My face is wet
# So wet with tears
# You know l want you, l need you
# Down through the years...
`The audiences adored me, especially the girls.
`l`d married Velma Warren a few years back and had a family.
`But l saw less and less of them as the demands of the road increased.
`My fans and my band occupied my days and nights.
`l`d moved to New York now.
`l was even playing the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, alongside Jackie Wilson
`and doo-wop groups like The Drifters and The Dominoes.
`Sometimes l wondered if my mother knew of my success.
`And it was there at the Apollo, after a sell-out show,
`that a small woman came through the door.
`l hadn`t seen my mother for more than 20 years.`
James didn`t know that she was coming.
So all this way-back stuff came up again.
l know that`s what it was, because he hadn`t seen her,
and he had in his mind that she left him
and all the problems he went through when she left him.
l have nothing to say about my daddy or my mother but God bless you.
He was just bitter.
They didn`t get together till later on, when finally they started talking.
That night at the Apollo was a rough night with Susie. A rough night.
God said vengeance is his,
so l hope he won`t do the same thing to them that was done to us.
But just make sure they can`t inflict pain on other people.
lf you can`t trust your mother, who can you trust?
l think there was a certain element...
in James Brown that prevented him from ever completely trusting anyone.
No matter how much he cared for them,
no matter how much they did for him professionally,
there was still, in the back of his mind,
``Are they gonna steal from me? Are they using me?
``What`s the real motive? What`s the hidden agenda?``
Because that`s what he had to do to be successful,
and l suppose he transferred that to everybody else.
`l was learning to make success happen.
`My first live album gave people who had never seen my show
`a taste of my stage act.`
l don`t think any live album of black music quite had the impact of that one.
lt really defined him.
lt made people who had heard about him want to see him.
That`s the thing about James Brown, everybody who liked soul music
remembers seeing James Brown live. There was nothing like it.
- Are you ready for the Night Train? - Yeah!
- Are you ready for the Night Train? - Yeah!
# Night, night, night, night, night...
`lt doesn`t matter how you travel through life, it`s still the same hard road.
`lt doesn`t get easier as you get bigger. ln some ways, it gets harder.
`l`ve been a shoeshine boy and a jailbird with less than a 7th grade education.
`That`s what drove me back then as l travelled America.
`We were covering the whole country now.
`My shows got bigger, my records were selling nationwide,
`and l began getting national exposure on TV.`
# l feel good
# l knew that l would, now
# l feel good
# l knew that l would, now
# So good
# So good
# l got you
# When l hold you in my arms
# l know that l can do no wrong
# When l hold you in my arms
# My love can`t do me no harm
# l feel nice
# Like sugar and spice
# l feel nice
# Like sugar and spice
# So nice
# So nice
# l got you
# Yeah! #
lt`s a wonderful dichotomy, a guy who can scream and roll round on his knees
and also have a sense of who he was and what to do with his money.
lt was quite impressive, and important.
`l started promoting my own shows.
`You take a bigger risk, but if you`re smart you can make more money.
`l started my own music publishing company.
`l wanted to be the complete thing: businessman, entrepreneur and artist.`
We were constantly travelling
and working steady all the time.
During the time we were doing the theatre circuits,
we`d do maybe six to seven shows a day.
They don`t do that any more.
l also ended up becoming his hairdresser.
So l`d travel extensively with him, so l was very close to him.
Mr Brown thinks that your hair and your teeth are the most important things.
``Miss High, if your hair ain`t right,
``something wrong with you. Gotta keep your hair right! Understand?``
He`d look at me sometimes, ``Miss High, what did you do to your hair?``
He takes care of that hair. And that million-dollar smile.
l was crazy over him. l was, like, ``Oh, man, this is my mentor.``
My everything, you know.
We were excited, we were young, and it was like, James Brown!
He embodied what we all were trying to say.
He could walk on stage and there was something about his strut that said,
``You gotta take me the way l am.``
Some people have to make great poetic speeches.
He just had to grab the mike, holler and turn round. We got the message.
# Come here, sister
# Papa`s in the swing
# He ain`t too hip
# About that new breed thing
# He ain`t no drag
# Papa`s got a brand-new bag...
`l was still called a soul singer,
`but musically l`d gone off in a different direction
`from, say, Otis Redding or Aretha Franklin.
`My strength was rhythm. l heard all the instruments like they were drums.
`l had found out how to make it happen. The title told it all.`
# Papa`s got a brand-new bag #
When we did ``Papa`s Bag``, we had that...we just laid it right there.
lt didn`t move, you know. Solid.
That`s one thing that makes the blues good, it`s solid.
So l was able to hold that down on one and three which nobody could play it.
Everybody else was laughing at us.
We just groove, people couldn`t even get the sticks up.
He began creating another way to make black popular music.
And the emphasis on rhythm, which had always been there,
but now, stripped away of the melodic flourishes, became a new thing,
and eventually evolved into funk.
So the whole direction of what we consider dance music,
in terms of how it`s arranged, how it`s recorded and how long a track was,
come out of these records in the mid-`60s.
lt`s the mother lode, ``Papa`s Bag``. lt was the one that changed everything.
`My music was keeping pace with the changes in society.
`We were demanding our rights now, civil rights and human rights.
`People warned me not to get involved.
`l said, ``With all that`s going on, l got to try.```
They whupped us all.
Even the whites.
They wouldn`t kill the blacks, they`d kill the whites for being a nigger lover.
So l got to be concerned.
And if l tell `em, l said, l try to get myself a lot of...
There`d be a lot of things.
l`d get a lot of press, a lot of coverage if l paint it white.
Uh-uh, l gotta paint it real.
`On June 6th, 1 966,
`James Meredith was ambushed on his March Against Fear.
`Someone shot him in the back.
`l flew to see him in Memphis.
`To me, black power meant pride and black people having a voice in politics.
`My music was becoming more openly political.`
# Now let me... Now let me tell you what you`re doing...
`lt began with the ``White`` and ``Coloured`` water fountains l`d seen,
`and then the prejudice l witnessed touring with The Famous Flames.
`l now wanted to have something to say about the country l lived in.`
At that time, black people especially
needed something.
Politics did nothing for them,
and he came along at the right time, with the right message.
He saw a need for these people, for all underdogs.
These songs had messages, and people listened.
# Tell me one more time, people, now
# What do you say?
# Without an education
# You might as well be dead
- # One more time - # What do you say?
# Without an education you might as well be dead...
He was always interested in education, because he was a dropout.
So his thing was to push education.
That song, ``Don`t Be A Drop Out``,
says without an education we might as well be dead.
He was fortunate, and blessed, and lucky enough
to make it without that, but everyone couldn`t be a James Brown.
l never had the chance to experience growing up as a kid.
l was 1 5 years old, l was taken by the authorities, police,
taken away from home. l was the popularest kid in school.
But l was a bad kid.
Don`t ever think you`re under nobody. Be proud and keep your head up high
and do what you got to do as a people.
`At that time of social disadvantage,
`we gave away scholarships to black colleges.
`Still do try and make a difference to the black community here in Augusta.`
l`m not doing that for the camera. l always do that.
l do it all the time. Yeah.
l`m not trying to pick up nothing, but it`s nice to see
so they can know what l`m saying to kids.
Anywhere you drive around these streets you see them run to the car
because he regularly comes here and makes sure the kids have money,
and take the money to their parents, and he gives them bicycles...
He doesn`t forget where he comes from.
- How you doing? What`s your name? - Ricky.
- Here you are. And...? - James.
Uh-oh! James, l expect l can spell that.
He`s got a good attitude. Oh, Lord.
He doesn`t know what it is.
lt`s fun to play with, l don`t know.
l gave it to his mother and she gave it to him.
# Georgia
# Oh, Georgia
# Well, well...
`Augusta`s been my home for many years now.
`lt`s where we often come together, the band and me.
`Our rehearsals are held behind closed doors. lt`s where my music evolves.`
One more time.
l said l`d put that question l`ve had all these years.
# Georgia
# Georgia
- # Georgia - # Georgia
# No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no peace l find
- # Well, well - # Georgia
# lt`s an old sweet song
# To keep Georgia right here
# On my mind...
When you get into a rehearsal with James Brown, the first thing is,
probably whatever you do won`t be right.
But you strive to do exactly like you`re told,
and you strive to remember every move.
The main thing is, nothing is written down,
so the only thing you have to rely on is your memory.
# Still
# ln my dreams l see
- # Oh - # The road
# The road, the road
# The road leading back to you, Mama
# Georgia
- # Ooh - # Georgia...
Most of the band members have been with him many years.
So...he basically sings the same songs all the time,
so they should know the songs.
They know they have to keep their eyes on him when he`s performing.
lf he turns and sees they`re looking at something else, they get fined.
He would fine someone, you know, like he`s singing...
``Get on up... Get up, get on up``...
and he`ll look around and he`ll see... ``Get on up``...
along with the music, the beat and everything.
However many times, that could be a hundred, two hundred, three hundred.
lt could be five, ten, fifteen.
One night he gave me a fine of $75 for a wrinkle in the back of my dress.
Whenever you would see him doing this,
he`d go like that to a particular person,
that was $5... $5, $1 0, $1 5, $20 out of the pay cheque that week.
He loved being on stage, but it was all about business.
Timing your appearance, someone going into a change at the wrong time,
hitting a wrong note, he heard it all.
James Brown the showman was about business.
He enjoyed himself on that stage or he became angry on that stage.
There was an anger that was not understood.
And l don`t know what that anger was,
but one day l realised it didn`t make a difference.
What he did to one he`d do to the other,
regardless of what you accomplished.
l would hate to have to fight James Brown.
Cos you`d probably have to shoot him 20,000 times before he quit.
He will win, he would not lose an argument.
l think that`s why people don`t argue with him,
because they know there is no way to win.
He had to be in control. James Brown had to be in control.
- Did l call you? - No.
- Why didn`t l call you? - l don`t know.
# One...two...
# Three...four
# l don`t care, ha
# About your past
# l just want
# Our love to last...
```Cold Sweat`` had fitted right into my 1 960s funk bag.
`Funk, like soul before it, came from the roots of black music.
`lt`s about being proud of yourself and your people.
# ln a cold sweat...
`Funk music and the civil rights movement went hand in hand.
`A lot of strange things were happening: killings, riots across America,
`burning black people`s businesses and homes.
`The whole country was burning up in the summer of `67.`
They hurt `em. What they did to `em. They beat `em up,
left their families homeless, dragged them out at night.
You don`t think you should say ``Ouch``? l can`t believe the system.
Treat people that bad and not expect `em to say it hurts?
The doctor has to tell `em, ``Does it hurt there?``
The system will never say, ``Does it hurt?`` So men react.
``An eye for an eye``, we`re not saying that.
We`re saying, ``Give me a piece of the pie.``
Or throw it up in the air, let everybody catch a piece.
You just hand it to somebody else, never to me, and l`m standing looking.
`l didn`t think a year could get any stranger than 1 967,
`but there was a lot worse to come.`
(Chanting) We want King! We want King!
We want King!
`l knew the killing of Martin Luther King would bring violence and death.
`When he died, l wanted to keep people from rioting on the streets that night.
`l was booked to do a live show in Boston.
`At first, the mayor wanted me to cancel my show,
`but then we suggested televising it.
`That way, people could stay home and see it.`
We in Boston will honour Dr King in peace.
Thank you.
`There was no trouble in Boston that night.
`The police said it was so quiet on the streets it was eerie.
`Other cities weren`t so lucky.
`There were hundreds of fires and thousands of arrests.
`People were dying.
(Announcer) `The king of rhythm and blues, James Brown!`
`My fans were edgy. When they jumped on stage, that upset the police.
`They started to move in.
`l knew a televised incident would destroy everything l was doing.
`l told the police to back off.`
l`m all right.
You wanna dance? Dance.
People there still came cos James Brown was a hero.
Everybody came to see what Soul Brother Number One was saying.
l said, ``Wait a minute.
``l`m here to stop this, get us back on the good foot and do what we got to do.
``And the problem here is, you don`t respect me.
``Wait a minute.``
We are black, don`t make us all look bad. Let me finish the show.
Get off the stage, step down there. Be a gentleman.
You`re not being fair to me or your race.
l asked the police to step back because l figure
l could get some respect from my own people.
Now, are we together?
(Audience ) Yeah!
# Ow! Can`t stand it
# Can`t... Ow!
# Can`t stand it, baby...
l remember a leading politician once told him,
``You`re in trouble now, when you stopped the riots.``
He said, ``Why, l thought it was good.``
``You don`t understand. Anyone who can stop a riot can start one.``
His influence frightened them,
because he was not ruling in terms of influence by their permission.
He was independent, he was a free agent,
and even though he was doing everything positive,
they don`t wanna see that kind of power in hands of people they don`t control.
`Once you become a public figure and are seen with politicians,
`it can get tricky.
`l wanted to entertain the troops in Vietnam. The authorities were reluctant.
`lt took a long time to persuade the government
`to let me, a black musician, go there.
`l admired the bravery of the soldiers,
`and l understood they wanted artists they could identify with.
`The army brass didn`t see things my way.`
He expressed his dissatisfaction with how he and his troupe had been treated
by the USO branch that had sponsored the trip.
The fact that his entourage had been severely limited,
that he couldn`t take his whole band,
so he couldn`t bring the soldiers his whole show.
He thought that was grossly unfair, and he decided that it was racial,
that the army brass didn`t know who he was
because they didn`t know or give a damn about contemporary music.
So he had a pretty bitter experience.
l didn`t go to Vietnam to fight.
l went to comfort the people. We might never see them again.
And if the music was loud enough, we had a ceasefire while l was on stage.
They didn`t use that time to blow up the place. They came for the music.
# This is a man`s world
# Mmm
# But it wouldn`t be nothing
# Nothing
# Without a woman or a girl
# l`ll say it one more time...
`We did two, sometimes three shows a day.
`lt was harder than any tour l`d ever done.
`We travelled by helicopter, and came back to our Saigon hotel every night.
`ln those days, the singers who toured with me were also my girlfriends.
`That way l could keep them with me.
`ln Vietnam, Marva Whitney was the singer in my show.`
l was scared to death, and especially in planes when they...
Every now and then, we could kinda peep out the window,
and it`s something to look up, down, and all you see is fire.
And then they tell you you have to lay down in the belly of the plane.
So we lay down, we were very obedient because we didn`t want to get shot.
And l think he felt comfortable if he had at least a stick
to fight in case somebody came.
He said, ``l must have a stick to protect myself.``
l was very glad that he did.
When you belong to him and his entourage,
you`re in there, l believe... know, for the long haul.
lt doesn`t mean that you don`t love him, because l do love him
for what he has taught me.
Some people forgive, some people understand,
and some people keep on being who they are.
There`s a saying, ``Self-preservation is the first law of nature,``
and that he follows.
That he follows.
And it has paid off for him.
He personified the era.
l was a teenager during that time and l remember picking up ``Look`` magazine.
The cover story was,
``James Brown. ls he the most important black man in America?``
ln many ways, he was.
James Brown`s records were more like movements unto themselves.
They had a tremendous impact on a whole generation of black Americans.
# Uh! You`re bad
# Say it loud
# Say it loud...
``Say lt Loud - l`m Black And l`m Proud`` just drove me crazy
on the dance floor as a young kid.
To hear this record that came out so bold and strong,
that took us from being coloureds and negroes and other derogatory words,
it was a strong effect of hearing brother James Brown.
# Say it loud
# Some people say they got a lot of manners, some say it`s a lot of nerve
# l say we won`t quit moving till we get what we deserve...
lt was a song to uplift black people.
``Say it loud, l`m black and l`m proud.``
There was a time when if you`d say black to a black man,
whatever his complexion, you`d have to fight.
So he made it popular.
Even to this day, when l`m in the middle of some huge fight over civil rights,
l always quote James Brown and that song,
``Some of us rather die on our feet than live on our knees.``
There`s nothing l know of ever said that more expressed how some of us feel.
lt wasn`t just something nice and cute. lt spoke to our soul.
# Say it loud
# Say it loud...
`But the song scared white people.
`They thought it was militant and it cost me my crossover audience.`
lt was a shame, because it really never was a hate record.
lt got misunderstood, cos as the record got strong,
H Rapp Brown and the Panthers and others took it as their theme,
and it scared some white audiences and white programmers.
James suffered for standing up for what he thought was right.
l wasn`t mad with nobody or talking down the country,
l was talking about making it better.
That summer that record came out, it was such a...
No black artist had ever done anything quite like that.
Specially no one as popular as he was, no one with as much at risk as him.
Black identity was still up for grabs.
We take ``black`` for granted, ``black`` is almost ancient now,
but in `67, `68, `69, who we were, black pride, was a new concept.
ln Augusta, Georgia l used to shine shoes
on the steps of the radio station WRDW.
We started at 3 cents, then we went up to 5 and 6. Never did get to a dime.
Today, l own that radio station.
You know what that is?
That`s black power.
This is Tony Scott reporting from WRDW Augusta,
a James Brown station.
l always say if l got my own money l can buy what l want.
But if l got no money and you ain`t got the rights...
l don`t want rights with no money.
l`d rather have no rights and have money, go across the street and buy it.
`As well as buying radio stations,
`l started a chain of Gold Platter restaurants.
`They had black management and food geared to the ghetto.
`l financed my own line of food stamps too.`
l was buying opportunity that God granted us and we never got.
l was buying opportunity.
`l bought my second Learjet,
`and with my second wife Deirdre, moved back to my home town, Augusta,
`this time to Walton Way on the white side of town.
`That was all right with me. l wasn`t prejudiced.
`lt was a new decade now, the `70s, and my music was getting funkier.
`l`d rather play for my people at the Apollo than play the White House.`
# That`s where it`s at That`s where it`s at
# Hot pants
# Smokin`
# Hot pants
# Smokin`
# Take your fine self home...
What l used to do is come off stage,
write a song in between, while the show was going, while my band was playing.
l`d put my uniform on, do the show, get changed and go to the studio.
Wrote it during the show and recorded it after the show, same night.
A lot of times he`d put songs together right there in the studio.
lt was long and tiring at times,
but he would come out with a hit.
He has it in his mind already.
He can pluck these things out on the piano,
he can tell the guitar what he wants to play.
``Play chang, chang, chang, chang, chang, chang, ching.``
And the bass player... This is how he makes the sound.
You should do: Da-da-da ba-ba bang!
Know what l mean?
You gotta go... in double time to raise it up.
lnstead of doing the regular.
Make it tricky. OK? Same thing!
He can hear things that we can`t hear.
Sometimes l was, like, ``Where did he come up with that?
``How did he do that?``
l`m talking about the background, you know.
He would say, ``Miss High, l want you to sing...
``l want you to sing... aaahhh``
``Sing what?``
James Brown also had a lot of talented musicians and band directors
who could interpret what he would say to them.
Sometimes he`d play little things on the organ,
but most of the time it`d be like... do-do-do do-do-do-do do-do.
l`ve been told a thousand times that the music was wrong.
A thousand times.
Mr Brown violates musical rules in all areas.
l mean, it`s things as simple as one, two, three, four.
lf it doesn`t work with what he`s doing, he might go one, two, three and a half.
l said, ``Does it sound good?`` ``Yeah, it sounds good.``
l said, ``Are you arguing with God`s ears?``
God made your ears, you didn`t make `em.
lf it sounds good, that`s it.
lf you listen to a tune like ``l Got The Feeling``, somehow it works,
but there`s no count on ``l Got The Feeling... da-da-da-da ba-da-da.``
# l got the feeling now
# You don`t know
# What you do to me...
This part here... Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba!
# Baby, baby, baby...
You cannot count that, you cannot write that, it violates all musical terms.
There is no one, two, three, four, it is just like it is.
The main rule when you play with James Brown is watch him,
go with him, whatever he does.
# You don`t care about me now
# Ow! Baby
# All right
# Uh-huh! Ah!
# Baby
# l got it
# All right...
There`s no musical formula or theory for it,
it just is, and it works.
So l became a true proponent of the James Brown theory of music,
which is sort of non-theoretical, it`s whatever makes your body move.
# Get up offa that thing
# Dance till you feel better
# Get up offa that thing
# Dance, say it now
- # Get up offa that thing - # Say it
- # Dance till you feel better - # Uh-huh
# Get up offa that thing
# Dance till you feel better
# Get up offa that thing
# Dance till you feel better
# Get up offa that thing
# And twist, twist and shout
# Get up offa that thing And dance till you feel better
- # Uh-huh! Dance - # Get up offa that thing...
He deserved every title that was placed on him,
from Soul Brother Number One to the King Of Soul.
A lot of people don`t know the reason why he became the Godfather Of Soul.
When you`re king, you don`t need to be the godfather,
but that was when he did a movie ``Black Caesar``,
which dealt with the black mafia up in Harlem.
That`s when he took on the title of the Godfather Of Soul.
# Having fun
# Got money to burn...
Mr Brown was a very unconventional man,
famous for doing things no one else did,
and l told him what the movie was about.
He got the band, went in the studio, recorded three hours of music
and said, ``You got it.`` ``Got what?`` ``The master.``
l said, ``Mr Brown, that`s not the way it`s done.``
``lt`s the way l do it.``
And he never saw the movie until it was screened in New York.
# Told you so...
lt was what Mr Brown wants. lt`s his show, his game, his world.
You`re just passing through. Play by the rules, you`re in.
Mr Brown has a terrific ego,
which is good. We all have egos, but he has a terrific ego.
``l am who l am.
``l`m the best.
``l know it, first because l say it and secondly because l show it.``
He always had this saying, ``l`m not fattening frogs for snakes.``
``l am not fattening frogs for snakes.``
And from a small town, it`s like, what does that mean?
And one day it hit me, l`m not going to go any further unless l participate more.
lf he cares about you, he`ll make sure he keeps in contact with you.
Sometimes l`d get kinda angry about that,
because l didn`t want him to know every place that l would go,
but that was just his way of caring.
lt was too much stress.
l had a hotline at my house.
l couldn`t go to the grocery store, or to a movie.
l had to answer that phone all the time. l had no peace.
l`m in Texas, they`re in Georgia.
That`s cute to a lot of people,
but sometimes it gets to be like a little prison,
and just too much was happening like that.
He could be a tyrant, he could be generous.
He could be extremely patient and tolerant.
And he could be demanding beyond reason.
The James Brown l worked for was remarkably sawy about the business.
There was no aspect of the music business he wasn`t keenly aware of
and vastly experienced in.
`From the start, l had built my business and spread my message through radio
`and my special relationship with DJs.
`But they were now accusing us of payola.`
What Brown did that l think nobody else probably did was,
at some point in the evening he would leave the dressing room,
or ask the guys to go and meet one of his road managers,
or his valet, or whoever was the designated guy that night.
That person would have little envelopes for every one of these DJs,
with money inside.
l gave disc jockeys money.
l paid disc jockeys for their labour, and l kept receipts.
They would then have you sign a receipt,
which stipulated that it was for MC Services.
l would like to know, would you tonight give James Brown,
with a standing ovation,
the respect he deserves and let me hear you say, ``Right on.``
The whole thing was above board.
As long as the guys took the stage,
that`s what they were getting paid for.
The government looked at it, we were doing nothing wrong.
lf we discovered a fella got a rent problem, he got kicked out of his house,
Mr Bobbit would tell me and we`d pay his rent or whatever.
He ain`t got a car, we`d get him one.
Somebody had to help me, so we helped somebody.
`No government investigation could stop me playing for my people.
`l took my music where it belonged, to the ghettos and prisons.`
No one had his confidence, his determination or his discipline,
and he was sure, l mean absolutely certain,
that he could change history.
`You can try to get inside and have some influence,
`or stay outside and be pure and powerless.
`Either way, you`ll get criticised if you`re black and supporting a president.`
He felt what Nixon was doing was in the interests of people.
He felt he could talk to Nixon.
Thank you. Thank you.
Does the president know what l`m doing in the ghetto? He has no idea.
The system has no idea of the ghetto, whether it`s black, Latino or whatever.
ln the ghetto they got a different language.
What was important to me was to tell the president straight, one on one.
Maybe it was his interpretation of the saying,
``Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,``
or just a case of you throw your lot in with the winners.
l respected it if only for the guts it took to do it,
because surely he had to know the backlash he was going to get.
lt caused big problems for us, because a lot of the radio stations,
a lot of the disc jockeys he had given jobs to and helped,
they turned on us and several took his records off the air.
For a short while it was kind of bad.
# lf you have a change of heart
# Because we can`t, we can`t go on like this...
`As l always said, if people want to know who James Brown is,
`all they have to do is listen to my music.`
# And we have got to love our mother
# Because she said never to be apart
# And avoid hate and add love to our heart
# l never thought good people would ever, ever fail
# And let this wonderful world
# Be like a prison jail...
`Though l`d never stopped making TV and radio shows and records,
`l found l somehow couldn`t keep hold of the money.
`The tax people, the lRS, were closing in.
`They claimed l owed $2 million, then $4.5 million in back taxes. lt was crazy.
`l got the feeling people were watching me.
`The FBl had a programme to destroy black nationalists,
`and J Edgar Hoover told his agents to prevent the rise of a new black leader.`
We know now the government didn`t want the rise of a black messiah.
We know now that they surveilled and infiltrated black organisations.
None had the mass appeal or following of James Brown.
lt would be naive to think they went at local activists
and didn`t deal with a world icon.
l was still ignorant to what was going on.
l`m street-smart. l can make the money,
but the system takes it and doesn`t give it back.
`Following my worsening tax problems, they shut my radio stations.`
They closed my stations cos l didn`t run `em equal to the Highway Department.
l couldn`t run `em that way.
That same rap that we had, also our style of living went into that.
Don`t expect me to be a professor. l`m from a ghetto. l act like James Brown.
`They took away my jet planes.
`The lRS took away my cars and even got seizure papers on my house.`
l think his lRS problems were political,
motivated by those who didn`t want to see him go too far.
l think the fact he was so outspoken motivated some to misuse government
to try and, if not stop him, at least slow him down.
`lt wasn`t just politics but the music business too that slowed me down.`
`Disco had arrived.`
Disco did in not just James Brown
but just about every other live entertainer
worth their salt in the mid `70s,
because all of a sudden it wasn`t cool to go to concerts.
You took that money and you went to a club and you danced to records.
The last semblance of what Brown stood for career-wise was threatened.
ln fact, there was a lull there in the mid and late `70s
where his career was probably in the worst shape it`s been
save before his first record in the `50s.
There simply weren`t venues enough to keep him active,
and keep him supported. Given his lifestyle and his tax problems,
it was a recipe for financial disaster.
`Under the pressure of so many problems,
`my second wife Deirdre left me and took my two little daughters.
`l missed them.`
l had my butt kicked, l had my head thumped, taking my home,
running my wife away, running my kids away,
putting them all on drugs, it was the end of the world to me.
Right here, you know. What do l do?
Do l get angry, do l retaliate, do l say ``Ouch``?
Or just smile and say l like it? No, l didn`t do that.
`l was also haunted by memories of my first-born, Teddy,
`who had died a little while earlier.
`All of that seemed like the end of the world to me.`
Teddy was killed in a car accident. We were around the same age.
l became like his son and he became like a father to me.
He was the father that left, and l was the son he lost.
We became very close.
l think when he had the tragedy in his life,
l think he would really have fallen apart, because he loves very hard,
his family members, and his wife, he loved her very much.
lf he had not continued to perform, l think he would`ve fell apart, l really do.
l said when l woke up this morning,
l heard a disturbing sound.
(All) Yeah!
What l heard was the jingle-jangle of a thousand lost souls.
`Performing became my therapy.
`l`d always felt you shouldn`t bring your problems to the stage.
`My act originated in the church.
`People don`t go to church to find trouble but to lose it.`
l knew he had a background as a preacher
and also that he considers God very close to his drive and path in life.
He looks to God in the sore times and thanks him in the great times.
So l thought, with Landis, it`d be great to have him
show us where all blues began, in the church.
Well, well, well.
(Sings gospel song)
Despite the occasional movie role and hit song,
the `80s were bleak years for James Brown.
Fans and broadcasters like me wanted more high-energy, innovative music,
but the Godfather Of Soul seemed to have temporarily lost his way.
He married a third time,
but the tempestuous and very public marriage
found its way repeatedly onto the TV news.
(TV) `ln Aiken, South Carolina,
`James Brown is charged with trying to kill his wife
`by shooting up her car and attacking her with an iron pipe.`
`Singer James Brown spent last night in jail in Aiken, South Carolina.
`Brown went on trial accused of trying to run down two policemen
`after ignoring orders to stop his pick-up truck.`
Look at any human being and ask,
how many storms can you take before you break?
He has broken a couple of times,
and we saw the valves blow down there in the South a few years ago.
l used to be afraid to turn on the radio in the morning.
l was afraid that l`d hear this guy was in jail or arrested or whatever.
Because for a period, it was a real touch-and-go situation.
(TV) `When police caught up with him, they had to wrestle him to the ground.`
They`re running tests now on a little vial of greenish-reddish looking material
that we suspect is gonna be PCP.
ln September 1 988, Brown burst into an insurance seminar with a shotgun,
claiming the salesman had soiled his toilet,
and was chased across two states by a procession of police cars
who riddled his truck with 23 bullets and shot out his tyres.
Things built up, you know.
He was just going out for a drive,
and he was on a substance because he couldn`t take it any more -
Sensitivity, the artist, all of it.
lt`s lucky nothing worse happened, when you think how things had built up.
Brown refused to plead guilty to driving while on drugs or resisting arrest.
For his stubbornness,
he got six-year sentences from both Georgia and South Carolina.
l refused to say l was guilty of something l wasn`t guilty of.
lf you say no and disagree, you go to jail.
lf you`re black, and a big man like me, you go to jail to show the rest of `em.
So l went to jail, and l thank God for it, cos l rested.
l was tired, l needed a rest bad. So one thing helped me for another.
l remember l went to see him in jail in the late `80s.
l was protesting, l was angry. lt was an injustice.
He said to me, ``Reverend, don`t worry. When l get out, l`ll be bigger than ever.``
l thought he`d lost it.
``What do you mean? You`re going to jail, you`re in your late 50s.``
He never doubted his place in history. Never, under any circumstances.
A model prisoner, Brown was released after serving two and a half years.
But the devil never strays far from James Brown`s door.
A few years later his turbulent marriage to Adrienne ended tragically
when she died while undergoing cosmetic surgery.
Brown was shattered.
He reacted as he had when his son Teddy died. He went back to work.
l`ve been with him in the lowest moments
and he`d look at me and tell me how it would all be all right.
The strange thing is, it ended up being all right.
# Peace, unity, love and having fun
# Ahh! Ahh!
# Baby, baby...
`During my time in prison, my music became popular
`with the next generation of ghetto kids, the hip-hoppers and rappers.
`They took my music and sampled it and made dance records.
`Their stuff is an extension of what l was doing,
`rapping over a funky beat about pride, anger and respect.`
A lot of the attitude of what we consider hip-hop,
the attitude, the command, the sense of ``vengeance is mine``
in some of those songs, comes out of James Brown records.
Every James Brown record ever made has probably been sampled by now.
There is no hip-hop without James Brown.
James Brown is the most sampled artist of all time.
James Brown is very essential to much of the elements of hip-hop,
graffiti, break dancing, MCing and DJing.
Hip-hop could not have existed without him
because the originators of hip-hop,
Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, Aku Herc,
were all entrenched in James Brown.
James Brown was the ultimate hip-hop type of music.
Everything was there.
You had your breaks, your bass, you had your funky type of singing,
you had your funky style of word rapping,
like when he breaks down in ``Get On The Good Foot``,
keeping that break beat going back and forth, forth and back.
# l got the blues
# But l paid my dues
# l wanna do it
# Get, get, get, get, get, get get on the good foot
# Ow! Hey!
# Ow!
# Bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum Bum-bum-bum...
l don`t think one kid in the `hood
can`t tell you they haven`t been influenced by James Brown.
lf you`re a performer, James Brown is the ultimate performer,
the voice of James Brown is the ultimate voice.
He is not only an icon but an idol.
James Brown came from prison, he made something of himself.
l don`t know nobody who don`t respect him.
He was the architect, from gospel to soul, from soul to funk,
from funk to hip-hop.
There`s only one thread from the little church in Barnwell, South Carolina,
to the hip-hop concert in the Garden. That thread is James Brown.
`Where l grew up there was no way out, so you had to make a way.
`Mine was to create James Brown.
`People say l have a big ego.
`l had to have an ego to make anything of myself in the first place.
`l had to have an ego to stay out there and continue working no matter what.
`l have to have one now to say, ``Yes, l`m James Brown,
```and it`s still happening for me.```
l wanna be free. l wanna be able to serve the Lord,
not work six days a week and on Sunday l gotta rest cos l`m so beat.
Yeah, l got ego. My ego is for being free.
# Ah!
# Ahh! Ooh!
# The way l like it
# That`s the way it is
# l got mine Don`t worry `bout his
# Can`t go back Let`s get down
# Can`t go back Let`s get
# Can`t go back Let`s get down
# Can`t go back Let`s get down
# Everybody over there, get those hands in the air
# Everybody over there, get those hands in the air
# Everybody over there, get those hands in the air
# Everybody over there, get those hands in the air
# Everybody out there, get those hands in the air
# Everybody out here, get those hands in the air
# Get `em up, get `em up, get `em up
# Get `em up, get `em up
- # Get `em up, get `em up - # Get `em up, get `em up
- # Get `em up, get `em up - # Get `em up, get `em up
- # Get `em up, get `em up - # Get `em up, get `em up
# Get `em up, get `em up
# Get on up, yo
# Get on up...
Let`s hear it for the Godfather Of Soul, Mr James Brown!
Mr James Brown!
The Godfather Of Soul, Mr James Brown!