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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on August 28, 2005
What a life. What a personality. I have enjoyed this book enormously: You get the feeling that this is James Brown telling you his extraordinary story in a long and fascinating conversation. He talks about his music, his personal life and troubles, his philosophy, and, what I think is most thrilling, show business and stage performance.

My main goal in reading this book was resolving a personal doubt: Was he the genius behind his records, or was it Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley or his producers? After reading the book and listening to his records with lots of new insights, I have little doubt that the main driving force (although not the only one) in his records was himself. What Brown says about his music, where it came from, how it was made, what he intended to say, really made me discover many things in his records! For instance, if you have 'Live At The Apollo (1963)' (one of Brown's best albums) or have listened to it, DON'T MISS what he has to say about it -and play the LP again. I couldn't stop laughing for almost a quarter of an hour.

On another hand, I was also wondering: Is he a ruthless, egotistic and authoritarian character, as he is sometimes portrayed? In the book, JB openly and candidly talks about the discipline in his band, prison, guns, Black Power, and politics; and, paradoxically, in the end I finished with the impression of having received a lesson in confidence in man, tolerance, faith and spirituality. Soulful singers like him or BB King really have something to say about life-not only in their records.

On a last note, I think the (co-)writer Bruce Tucker has structured the book very well, hooking you from the beginning until the last page. As usual, it is better to avoid beginning with the prefaces and forewords, and leave them for the end. Only a little information about musicians in the sessions would have been welcome -although it is true that it's not the scope of the book.

Definitely worth reading it if you are a James Brown fan, and also very commendable if you are interested in music in general.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
I'm usually not so crazy about Star Biographies... for a variety of reasons, they're usually attention getting "feel bad for me" vs. "worship me" ploys taken from the pages of magazines atleast I wouldn't be caught dead reading outside of a doctor's office, however - - THIS BOOK IS DIFFERENT (!) It is enormously well written - - Though its pretty clear Bruce Tucker wrote most of it, he managed to dig down into JBs soul and convey his RAGS TO RICHES story quite convincingly, capturing his voice while telling about his rise and fall (<-- the IRS and disco got him) and his come back at the time This book is so well written that I've actually reread it SEVERAL times since it initially came out in the mid '80s. - - Though it is a bit ironical that JBs life would get a bit more "complicated" after it was written (the drugs, run-ins with the law, death of his wife etc.) it is clear that Brown & Tucker have presented to the world a book that's engrossing and definitely a keeper... It will bring a whole new meaning to the music !
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2002
One of the best bio's I have read! Took only 3-4 days to read since it moved at a very fast pace with so many things happening in James Browns life. His upbringing, music, family, record companies, IRS, managers, riots, struggles are all here. Before reading this I was a big fan even though I was not sure of the place this man occupied in music, as an innovater and business person, now I do. The first man to popularize the "live" album, strict band leader, tireless composer/arranger, producer, drummer, singer, dancer and many more things that one person had in him (as well as surrounded himself with exceptional musicians and some exceptional business partners). Also learned of his ethnic background which is Asian/Black/Indian. Many roadblocks on the way and a glimpse of what the business end of the entertainment world is like round out an exceptional and candid look into the life of Soul brother number 1!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 1999
I read James'initial autobiographical treatment of his life. Therefore, it was a must for me to obtain the 1997 "Godfather of Soul." It is a thorough, well-written masterpiece of a master showman and a remarkably diligent and outstanding individuality. This is a remarkable treatment of a remarkable individual. More than twenty years ago I watched Dick Clark's interview of James. I interpereted what he said to James at one point as follows: How are you able to withstand the pressure of being the best in the world and not having your own show when people all around who can't touch you have shows and the wealth, etcetera, that goes with it? Clark inferred that anyone who could do as James- and not receive the grand credit that they had been denied for long must be an extremely strong person. I admire how James- from a background of extreme poverty in the forests of Barnesville, S.C. worked and overcame formidable odds to become the greatest show person and dancer who ever lived. His music can instantly and frequently be heard in many recordings of all types of music. I have heard his music in spiritual song, blues, popular recordings, and opera. I have seen live operatic performances featuring his music. I particularly am moved by the phrase in the text which goes something like: If you mess with James Brown you got a problem. I recall when he took the Memphis, Tn. police dept. to court. That counts with me! In the book he alluded to someone who tried to do him physical harm just because of who he was. I am familiar with the stories I have heard of how he did a lot to help people all through his grand career. When one puts the meaning of James' life in proportional perspective one must factor in the tenor of the times and the relentless momentum that a person of his standing and color must contend with. I believe that Mr. Brown is the greatest person who ever lived- bar none. He has written many great songs and recorded many more. Despite racism and the negative influence which it may have had on his life he has managed to achieve an indelible place at the top of the annals of entertainment. When I visit a nursing home the first thing that I ask to strike up a conversation with the people who live there is, "Did you ever see James Brown?" Over 90% of them smile and say that they did see him. One man jumped out of his bed! Their eyes light up. I am sorry to see that the youth of today and some of those of days gone by have no appreciation or understanding of what Mr. Brown has meant in their lives. Early this year I matched what I read in his autobiography with some supportive writing that appeared in a recent Television Guide. The media publication said something along the lines of James' 1966 T.A.M.I. Show being the # 4 ranked television show of all time. (I have had occasion to see it on television and I would certainly like to know how I might obtain a copy of it for my personal use!) There was a popular dance that was name for James; it was called "The James Brown." I remember seeing the young children who use to do the "James Brown" dance. I remember that he owned his own black Lear jet over thirty years ago. James ran a professional organization and demanded the best from his staff and musicians. His "I Feel Good" is one of the most popular and long lived commercial songs around. I recommend this book to those who would like to be able to appreciate the nuances involved in being a man or woman, and standing tall despite the odds and your own people being against you. His choice of Bruce Tucker was a good one. I appreciate the opportunity to write what I have written. Before I take it back I shall add more to it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2005
I bought this book a couple of years ago, and once I began reading the first page I couldn't stop until I'd finished the whole book. The things that JB had to go through as a young boy, it's a wonder he didn't wind up on death row, or in an early grave. It's a good thing that he turned his attention to music, and put all he had into it. Even though he was never really raised by anyone, or had a real family life he was able to make his mark in life. I'm glad that he acknowledges the power of God, and he knows what God can do. I enjoyed reading this book. This is a must read for everyone.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
very powerful&uplifting.it touches on many different subjects.racisim,poverty etc..who hasn't this man not influenced? to see a human being overcome so many hardships&provide a innovative sound&style is incredible.but Mr.brown is a man with few peers on his level.this book explores the legend&genius of james brown.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2011
I only became a major James Brown fan recently, can't stop playing his music the last few months. His best music was made in the late sixties and through the seventies and apart from a few singles wasn't heard all that much in the UK, certainly not by me. `Payback' and `Hell' are two of the best albums ever made, and that's before you even get to the afterthought `In the Jungle Groove'.

Somehow James was always from the wrong side of the tracks. One review (on co.uk) says the trouble with this book is that his bad records, the fights with his band and his financial problems were never his fault. Maybe the book is sanitized a bit, for instance he obviously fell out with his band members many times, and you don't get much information here about what the fights were about, but many times they came back, and I think you'll be hard put to it to find one of them to badmouth him. Equally JB is very reluctant in this book to put anyone down, even those you might think he had every right to.

As far as the IRS is concerned, JB never in this book accuses them of corruption or racism. After all it would be a big surprise to discover that part of the federal bureaucracy was corrupt or racist now wouldn't it?

What this book does do - it's beautifully written, unlike many ghosted books, where often a lacklustre style gives a biography-lite version of commonly known facts - is give chapter and verse on a hard road trodden by JB in his early life culminating in an 8-12 jail sentence for stealing clothes from cars. The most interesting part is the line he had to walk between standing up for himself and unnecessarily annoying white jailers and other officials. But JB was always very bright and having had a very hard upbringing had had to learn the hard way.

The other really interesting thing for me was about the IRS, and also his experiences with King and particularly Polydor, about the ways hassles with record companies affected his creativity. Perhaps this was especially important for JB because his sounds were always right on the edge. Syd Nathan at King hated every single one of his major hits when he first heard them and Brown had to fight with him to get them released.

This is a good read, and from start to finish you are left in no doubt about Brown's views on his music or his politics. Well recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 6, 2012
This is a very interesting book. I didn't enjoy the Introduction because of the way it was written--one sentence might be 7 lines long. But the book itself was well written and an easy read. I really enjoyed it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2006
RIP to the Godfather of Soul, Soul Brother #1, The Hardest Working Man in Show Business. This been a great blow and to all of us James Brown fans here. This book was the one I needed to keep me focused. Just read it all the way through earlier this year. Very strong, uplifting and powerful. James Brown was the Hero, the Legend, the American Pioneer. He wasn't just an entertainer or a hit maker or an artist, he's a man that have overcome alot on what's happening in the world: going thru poverty, business, the Civil Rights Movement, the world, loss of jobs, politics, way of culture, way of living, and a way to express ourselves thru a meaning of religion, life, hunger, soul, pain, and suffering. The Man had it all. Boy I'mma miss him and his talent. His spirit always captures us thru this day. GOOD GOD!!!

Thanks for all the hardship and legacy you put us into, Brother James Brown.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2013
This is an amazing book. Bruce Tucker (who shares the credit and presumably did the actual writing) captures Brown's voice perfectly, and his simple, graphic description of Brown's hard times, early in his life, are all the more powerful because of their understatement. This is not a lightweight celebrity book. It's a real biography, by a writer who obviously cares deeply for the music that Brown made. A very fine piece of work depicting a unique music innovator and a relentless personality who started with nothing but overcame every obstacle--other than the IRS and the criminal justice system.
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