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article imageOp-Ed: New book on 'Godfather of soul' James Brown tells all, says son Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Aug 20, 2014 in Entertainment
Toccoa - A new 'tell-all' book has just hit the shelves or rather, the media airwaves, called "Godfather, My Father." It is about the legendary James Brown as seen through the eyes of his youngest son, Daryl Brown.
“It is a wonderful book, said the author, it tells the truth.”
That was for him the hardest part of getting the book together was telling the truth. James Brown died in 2006, almost a decade ago. Yet as Daryl pointed out, "I wasn’t ready, now I am and I had to tell it all,” he said.
Daryl described himself as “the baby (of the 16 children James Brown had from relationships with several women in his life); I played in the band with my father for over eight years.” That experience was good training for a musician, a steady foundation, one he treasures. “I was more than a fan, he was my father, I loved him,” said Daryl.
"James Brown was a complex man, said son Daryl, but there are so many things revealed in this book that many people don't know about my father," he said to this reporter by phone as he was on his way to a book-signing and interview.
James Brown was born in the deep South, in Barnwell, South Carolina during the Great Depression of the 1930's. Growing up poor, Brown's parents were very young when they brought James into the world. The moved to Augusta, Georgia so that they could share a house with an aunt. His parents did not get along very well, to say the least. According to the book, James Brown's mother Susie was beaten frequently. In one instance as Daryl tried to find more details, it is said that Susie was shot at by husband Joe. These are details not found on Wikipedia. Whether shot at or beaten, the setting was not happy and so James Brown's mother left the family.
"James Brown was not just poor, he aspired to become poor” said co-author Michael Chabries. "James was born in what could generously called “a shack.” Their home whistled in the evening wind with so many gaps in the floor, walls, and roof. As a child James Brown did whatever he could to make money. Yet, also to entertain himself as he did not go any further in school than the sixth grade. He was too poor to stay in school. He learned to entertain others and provide for his family by singing, dancing and playing the guitar and the piano. During World War II he won an amateur signing contest as a child at Augusta's Lenox Theater in 1944.
This and seeing movies when possible spurred him on to become an entertainer. At times he entertained the troops at Camp Gordon in Augusta not far from his aunt's house. Yet, his home-life situation and the dire poverty forced him constantly to find ways to earn money for food and other necessities. The book describes a very lonely existence for a child, almost to the point of complete abandonment.
"That by itself says a lot, always in need of food, the poverty, the hunger and the loneliness, many people don't understand that kind of condition," said Daryl. And, in the South, especially in those days that kind of living condition was common for many African-Americans. "My father knew that kind of poverty all too well, said Daryl, that is why he never wanted anyone to be poor."
"Many people don't know that James Brown was a humanitarian," said Daryl. "He did more for civil rights even before the Civil Rights movement ever got started."
Chabries agreed as he said," James Brown's outstanding generosity was often done quietly, as he championed many causes." One of the reasons why he did not continue with school was because of poverty and not having proper school clothes. This is something he never forgot.
 Godfather  My Father  is a collection of accounts about the life of James Brown as told through the...
"Godfather, My Father" is a collection of accounts about the life of James Brown as told through the voice of youngest son, Daryl Brown.
Courtesy of Michael Chabries
Like many growing up in the South during The Great Depression, James Brown did whatever he could to survive. He worked as a janitor, on an auto assembly line, he worked in the cotton fields and was even a boxer. And, with such harsh conditions, and often to the point of despair, he ended up in a juvenile correction facility. Yet, he was determined to survive and live a full life.
With his self-taught singing and entertainment skills he helped form a gospel group. This later turned into "The Avons" and then later "The Famous Flames." Like many of his generation who were part of the change in American music in the 1940's to '50's and then into the 1960's, James Brown had his roots in Gospel music.
As styles changed many groups and performing artists like James Brown went from Gospel to Rhythm and Blues, to Jazz and then the revolutionary 'Rock and Roll.' His emerging style and technique was all his own.
As Daryl explained it, "James Brown went farther, he was the originator of 'soul' and then 'funk' music." This is why James Brown is considered a ground-breaker, a pioneer as well as a legend.
James Brown recorded 16 number-one singles on the Billboard R&B charts as stated by Wikipedia. Brown also holds the record as the artist to have charted the most singles on the Billboard Hot 100 which did not reach number-one on that chart. Yet, his influence was unlike any other. Brown was honored by many institutions including inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame. Rolling Stone magazine cites that James Brown has 800 songs in his repertoire.
Music and entertaining aside, Daryl wanted this reporter and the world (if possible) to know that his father James Brown was much more than just an entertainer and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame legend. "He was a great man and I love him," said Daryl. "Not many people know that my father was an entrepreneur and owned several business; especially at a time when it was not easy for an African-American to own a business." "James Brown owned a radio station, a restaurant, he was very business savvy, not many people know this," he said. “My father believed people should be all that they can be, that they should own the job not simply be on a job.”
Daryl wants it to be known that this book is definitive. "There are lots of facts that are stated in this book and while he was a man of many talents, complexities and 'inner-demons' he was my dad." "He was exceptionally brilliant, unique and a musical talent without peer."
As Chabries explained, "Daryl is the voice of the book but there are many people who shared their recollections. Some of the things said where information never told to anyone before," said Chabries.
That is what Chabries and producers/investors in the book, Ian Trottier and Barbara Terry are amazed about. “So many people we talked to were remarkably open, generous, and said more than once, ‘this is something I have never told anyone else before.’ That alone was overwhelming, said Chabries.
While Daryl’s view point is prominent, “there were so many who spoke,” noted Chabries. “Lawyers, musicians, body guards, wives, mistresses; the list goes on. Yet, each one had something to say and were candid,” said Chabries.
“All the recollections are personal and that is the beauty of the book,” he added. For Chabries this is significant because as he explained, “I am a white man born and raised in the Mormon faith and to be introduced into this unusual and rare setting, listening to all these accounts of a celebrity’s life was both thrilling, humbling and shocking.” “As I said, I was amazed at the generosity of the people who talked about James Brown openly and allowed so much access. Yet, as a Mormon, with a strong conservative faith, the lifestyle James Brown led was not conventional.”
Daryl agreed as he said, “My father was a great man, but he was only human. He had flaws and failings just like anyone else.”
James Brown had many love affairs. His resistance to the lure of the libido and all the earthly pleasures was very little. Charbries noted that James Brown had incredible magnetism, not just on stage but with women, lots of women, both white and black. Even with such weaknesses, he was still very religious. He refused to have an affair or intimate relationship with a married woman.
He would insist she return her husband. “Yet, any woman who got involved with James Brown romantically, had to accept the fact that he loved and was drawn to many women, and not just one,” said Chabries. This for Chabries as a Mormon was one of the things about James Brown he found difficult to understand.
Chabries considers the fact that James Brown had that charismatic charm and magnetism. It was perhaps this magnetism that was hard to resist and this in a way was another temptation. “Power over others is a very heavy thing and I think few in his inner circle would or could confront him," said Chabries.
“And, while people often raised him up on a pedestal, said Daryl, even when he fell, he never lost sight of his obligations to the people, his fans.” “
He knew his fans and the people who loved him helped get him where he was. He did not forget that,” said Daryl.
“The people were his inspiration, he really cared a lot about the people and he knew he had a job to do, helping the people in whatever way he could.”Daryl went on to say that one of the toughest and at times most ‘demonic’ businesses to be in is the music business. “it is a free-for-all, and a cut-throat business,” he said.
“Yet, that comes with the territory of being in that business,” said Daryl. “And, that includes greed,” he said. Daryl also pointed out that no matter how talented, “Talent does make people super-human. Celebrities, even great ones like my dad are very human.” “Yes, he was very human, he had his flaws and he struggled with his demons all his life. Yet, every time he fell or was set back, he got back up and each time he did, he was better than before.”
According to Daryl, this is what made James Brown truly great, despite all flaws and weaknesses, “he did more for others than he did for himself.”
For more information about "Godfather, My Father" visit the Waldorf Press web site.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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