"I don't want nobody to give me nothin'. Just open up the door and I'll get it myself!"
REST IN PEACE
May 3, 1933 to December 25, 2006
James Brown, Godfather of Soul, is receiving 3:1 more newsprint than Gerald Ford, former President, as measured by Google searches of news items. Mourning for President Ford will go on for eight days, as is customary, but the outpouring for James Brown is truly amazing as well.
Thousands Pay Respects to James Brown
NEW YORK - Even in death, James Brown can move a crowd. Thousands of people danced and sang in the streets outside the Apollo Theater in a raucous celebration Thursday of the music legend's life as his body was displayed on the stage where he made his 1956 debut.
Music thumped from storefronts and portable stereos. Brown's wails and growls even blasted inside the auditorium as fans marched quietly, single-file past his open gold coffin.
Brown lay resplendent in a blue suit, white gloves and silver shoes. Flanking the casket were giant photographs of the singer performing. An arrangement of red flowers on a white background spelled out his nickname: Godfather. It was maybe the first time the hardest-working man in show business graced a stage in stillness, but that didn't stop his fans from partying.
"This is a celebration of his life," said 41-year-old Bryant Preudhomme of suburban New York. "James Brown gave you heart. He lifted you up when you were down. He gave you hope."
Brown, who died of heart failure Christmas morning at 73, lay in repose in the theater that helped catapult him to fame and was the setting for a thrilling live album in 1962. At an evening program for family and close friends, the Rev. Al Sharpton said it was difficult to believe that a man who was "so much alive" was dead.
"How could someone with such energy and life really ever be gone?" said Sharpton, a close friend of the Godfather of Soul for three decades.
Sharpton credited Brown with inspiring countless musicians in all genres and with refusing to become a conformist. "He became a superstar on his own terms ... he never bent, buckled or bowed," Sharpton said. "James Brown wasn't just No. 1, he changed the beat of music all over the world."
Earlier, Brown's body was carried to the theater through the streets of Harlem on a majestic white carriage drawn by two white horses. Hundreds of fans followed behind the caisson singing the chorus of Brown's anthem, "Say it Loud _ I'm Black and I'm Proud." To many, Brown was more than just an energetic performer. As Norman Brand of Harlem waited for the procession to begin, the 55-year-old recalled hearing "Say it Loud" 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."
Mourners came from far and wide to attend the first in a trio of services that will keep Brown almost as busy in death as he was in life. His casket left a Georgia funeral parlor Wednesday for an all-night drive to New York. It arrived at Sharpton's Harlem headquarters just before noon Thursday, and was quickly transferred to the carriage for a 20-block procession to the theater.
Sharpton accompanied the body from Georgia and walked behind the carriage Thursday. He stood at Brown's side for hours during the viewing. On Friday, a private ceremony is planned at a church near Augusta, Ga. A second public viewing of the singer's body will be held Saturday at the James Brown Arena in Augusta.
Some fans arrived at the Apollo as early as midnight for a chance to pay their respects, and more than 100 were inline outside the theater by 8 a.m. "He seemed like family, a friend of mine," said Brenda Harper, who was the first to arrive, shortly after midnight. Fourteen years ago, she said: "I jumped on the stage and he danced with me. I danced with the Godfather that day."
Musicians and celebrities slipped in to pay their respects throughout the day: boxer Joe Frazier, band members including bass player Fred Thomas, and Ali-Ollie Woodson, who was a singer with the Temptations in the 1980s and again in the early 1990s. Relatives passed through, too, some wiping away tears.
"He was my uncle, but he acted like a big brother to me," said Brown's nephew Earl Swindell, 54, who acted as a pallbearer. "I loved him, though. I was right there with him till the end. He meant a lot to me."
Brown, who lived in Beech Island, S.C., 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.
He had also talked recently about returning to Harlem, friends said, "He told me two weeks ago to book the Apollo for two days," said his friend and manager, Charles Bobbit. "He said, `Let's play two days at the Apollo, and we'll see the lines again around the block.'"
"The Apollo was always his home because that's where it all started," said his agent, Frank Copsidas, "and the people of Harlem were his family."
Fans gather for Brown's funeral
This is Brown's third memorial service in as many days
Thousands of mourners have paid their last respects to soul star James Brown, whose body is lying in state in his hometown of Augusta, Georgia.
Fans queued up in the rain to file past the singer's golden coffin at the city's 8,500-seat James Brown Arena.
A funeral is also due to take place, overseen by the musician's former manager, Reverend Al Sharpton.
Famous for hits like Sex Machine, Brown died suddenly on Monday in hospital after suffering pneumonia. He was 73.
He was a God-sent person - almost like an angel
Vickie Greene, James Brown fan
The public funeral will be the third memorial event in as many days for the musician known as the Godfather of Soul. On Thursday, thousands of fans poured into the Apollo Theatre in New York, where Brown made his stage debut in 1956 and recorded several live albums. A private service for family and close friends was held in South Carolina on Friday, with mourners including boxing promoter Don King, rapper MC Hammer and comedian Dick Gregory.
A private service for friends and family has already been held Reverend Sharpton, now a black civil rights leader, delivered the eulogy and praised Brown's effect on popular music.
"The James Brown that I know, he started singing in the woods of South Carolina," he said.
"What made James Brown so great was his commitment to a beat that some people tried to kill."
Nearly 8,500 mourners are filling up the James Brown Arena ahead of today's service, reports the Associated Press. Many more are expected to gather outside the auditorium, where the funeral will be broadcast on a public address system.
"He was a God-sent person - almost like an angel," said Vickie Greene, who had come to view Brown's body with her husband and grandson. . "He was so inspirational to people about sharing and helping and giving."
Atlanta resident Maynard Eaton, who organised a bus to carry 20 people to the funeral, said it was Brown's political message he valued.
"I'm black and I'm proud' was the most influential black slogan of the 1960s," he said, referring to the refrain of Brown's song Say It Loud.
Brown was inducted to the UK Music Hall of Fame in November
Brown was born in 1933 in Barnwell, South Carolina. He spent much of his childhood in Augusta, and adopted the town as his home. He remained involved with the city throughout his stardom, handing out Thanksgiving turkeys every year, providing meals for more than 1,000 families.
The singer had also participated in an annual toy drive in the city just three days before his death.
As well as the auditorium named in his honour, the town renamed one of its streets James Brown Boulevard, and erected a statue to the singer last year. Since his death, fans have flocked to the statue, leaving flowers, records and messages at its feet.
Three funerals in three days, upstaging Gerald Ford and Saddam - and I would like to see even more response. This is the James Brown Challenge - to see who are the true fans!
Thousands pack arena for James Brown funeral
By Matthew Bigg
AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Civil rights leaders, entertainers and legions of fans turned out in force on Saturday for a celebration and funeral for James Brown, whose music and message embodied a generation of revolutionary change for black Americans.
Brown lay in an open-topped golden coffin at the front of the James Brown Arena, which was renamed in honor of Augusta's most famous native son in August. Brown died of congestive heart failure on Christmas Day at the age of 73.
The legendary showman, known as the "Godfather of Soul," was dressed in a black suit and gloves with a ruby red shirt. Jewels sparkled on his lapels and the tips of his shoes.
An overwhelmingly black crowd of about 8,000 packed the arena for the public funeral and celebration following a private funeral on Friday and a viewing of his body at the Apollo Theater in New York.
Some in the crowd at the arena had waited since 9 p.m. on Friday for the start of the public viewing of the body. Many more disappointed people crowded the outside of the arena but were unable to get in.
"James Brown in my opinion is the greatest singer of all time and I am his number one fan," said Jesse Williamson, 59, who said he first saw Brown perform in 1963.
My youth was "a humiliating time (to be black) but as time went on Martin Luther King, James Brown and others made a difference," he said, referring to the system of racial segregation in the U.S. South and the civil rights movement.
Brown's music, with its staccato horns and guitars and his often explosive vocals, brought funk into the mainstream and has influenced pop and dance music since the 1960s.
Hip-hop artists revered him and dozens have employed his beats as the backdrop to their own songs. Entertainers such as Michael Jackson, who built their careers in part on their dancing, have drawn inspiration from Brown's style. The funeral was due to include a musical tributes and speeches.
In advance of the event, civil rights leaders Al Sharpton, a friend of Brown's, and Jesse Jackson appeared before the crowd and soaked up applause.
Activist-comedian Dick Gregory and singer MC Hammer also were on hand for the service, which opened with a rousing set of gospel music.
Brown was born in South Carolina and grew up in poverty in Augusta, beginning his musical career as a juvenile offender in jail. He later settled in as the most famous son of the city, also known for the Master's golf tournament, and earned a reputation for charitable giving and for eating at local restaurants. Brown's personal life was turbulent and in 1988 he was jailed for three years for drug and weapons charges.
He had 119 hits including "Please, Please, Please," "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," "It's a Man's World" and "Living in America" but his musical influence outweighed his chart success. He began touring in the 1950s on the all-black rhythm and blues circuit and his rise to national prominence coincided with the era of civil right. Brown became a living embodiment of black pride with "Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)."
"Back in those days you could only get work in a cotton field or as a sharecropper," said Joe Louis Reliford, who grew up in Waycross, south Georgia, and first saw Brown perform in the late 1950s.
"James Brown opened up the door," he said, adding that the show set off a storm among Waycross' black community and many tried to imitate his dance and fashion style.
Brown, who insisted on being called Mr. Brown, styled himself "the hardest-working man in show business" and performed more than 100 live shows this year. He was due to perform on New Year's Eve in New York's Times Square.