The Godfather of Soul is no longer physically with us, but his legend and his music live on. A controversial figure, James Brown appealed to a wide range of individuals. I’ve always liked his raw, earthy music. He served time in prison and upon release was asked if he had a comment. He did. It was a pithy and totally appropriate title of one of his best-known hit songs, “I Feel Good.”
R.J. Smith has written the definitive biography of James Brown with fascinating findings on his life as a Civil Rights activist, entrepreneur and an innovative musician. Brown, who had more than forty “Billboard” hits, was a dazzling showman who played 350 shows a year at his peak. His life offstage was also vibrant, and until now no biographer has delivered a complete profile. The One draws on interviews with more than one hundred people who knew Brown or played with him professionally. Using these sources, award-winning writer R.J. Smith draws a portrait of a man whose twisted and amazing life helps us understand the music he made.
Lemuria Books owner John Evans is a fan of The One, saying it has given him a clearer understanding of Brown’s life, which is the tool to understanding the music in full and grasping to some degree how it was created.
“R.J. Smith has given Soul Brothers and Funksters a fascinating look into the Godfather’s life,” Evans said. “James Brown’s amazing story is one through his trials, abuse and at times a celebration. The One is a masterful story of the most important musician during my growing up.”
The book delves into the story of a man who was reared in abject poverty in the segregated South but grew up to earn and lose several fortunes. Covered are his unconventional childhood (his aunt ran a bordello), his role in the Black Power movement, his high-profile friendships, and his complicated family life. The author’s research and prose blend biography with a cultural history of a pivotal era.
At the heart of The One is Brown’s musical genius. He had crucial influence as an artist during at least three decades. He inspired pity, awe and revulsion. As Smith traces the legend’s reinvention of funk, soul, R&B and pop, he gives Brown’s history a melody all its own.