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Kill 'Em and Leave: Searching for the Real James Brown Paperback – April 5, 2016
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The Amazon Book Review
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An Amazon Best Book of April 2016: National Book Award winner James McBride has written a book about an essentially unknowable man, one so twisted up in myth (self-made and otherwise) and (often poorly understood) tabloid-ready disasters that a traditional biography might well become worthlessly, untruthfully lurid. Instead, Kill 'Em and Leave is less concerned with the biographical minutiae of Brown's life than it is with Brown's world; he is the central figure of the book, but rarely is he at its center. Like an astronomer might look for an invisible planet by observing the movements of its celestial neighbors, McBride takes an oblique approach, traveling deep into Brown's past to interview bandmates, managers, family members, and friends, applying his unique, propulsive voice and insight as a musician to illustrate the world stacked against "The Godfather of Soul" and the ways it changed in his wake. --Jon Foro --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
“Thoughtful and probing . . . with great warmth, insight and frequent wit. The results are partisan and enthusiastic, and they helped this listener think about the work in a new way. . . . James McBride’s welcome elucidation . . . is clear, deeply felt and unmistakable.”—Rick Moody, The New York Times Book Review
“The author of the best-selling memoir The Color of Water and the National Book Award–winning novel The Good Lord Bird turns out to also be the biographer of James Brown we’ve all been waiting for. . . . McBride’s true subject is race and poverty in a country that doesn’t want to hear about it, unless compelled by a voice that demands to be heard.”—Boris Kachka, New York
“Masterly . . . powerful . . . McBride provides an invaluable service to the history of R&B. . . . In illuminating what James Brown meant to our culture, we’re in good hands with the impassioned McBride: a fellow musician, he knows this world from within, knows what the music did and why it mattered.”—Los Angeles Review of Books
“Kill 'Em and Leave is a feat of intrepid journalistic fortitude. . . . McBride does not lecture but he does preach. As a result his writing rings out with righteous passion. . . . Readers will be grateful for everything he has exposed here—the good and the bad, much of it hitherto unknown. Somewhere, even James Brown is probably saying thanks.”—USA Today
“This is an important book about an important figure in American musical history and about American culture. . . . You won’t leave this hypnotic book without feeling that James Brown is still out there, howling.”—The Boston Globe
“Illuminating . . . engaging.”—The Washington Post
“A stunningly unorthodox book, indifferent to the conventions of biographical nonfiction . . . McBride provides something lacking in most of the books about James Brown: an intimate feeling for the musician, a veracious if inchoate sense of what it was like to be touched by him. . . . It may be as close [to ‘the real James Brown’] as we’ll ever get.”—David Hajdu, The Nation
“McBride’s energetic storytelling, his sympathy for his subject and his deeply personal writing tell a sad tale of one of our most influential musicians.”—BookPage
“A gorgeously written piece of reportage that gives us glimpses of Brown’s genius and contradictions.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“Kill ’Em and Leave is a tight assemblage of reporting, biography, and cultural dissection, held together by McBride’s gutty, jangling, and sometimes smoldering voice. . . . McBride gets us closer than anyone else has—close enough to feel the voltage from twentieth-century music’s most electrifying showman.”—Jonathan Miles, Garden & Gun
“The definitive look at one of the greatest, most important entertainers, The Godfather, Da Number One Soul Brother, Mr. Please, Please Himself—JAMES BROWN.”—Spike Lee
“Please, please, please: Can anybody tell us who and what was James Brown? At last, the real deal: James McBride on James Brown is the matchup we’ve been waiting for, a musician who came up hard in Brooklyn with JB hooks lodged in his brain, a monster ear for the truth, and the chops to write it. This is no celeb bio but a compelling personal quest—so very timely, angry, hilarious, and as irresistible as any James Brown beat. It’s a must for anyone, as JB sang it, ‘Living in America.’ Read it, and your brain won’t sit still.”—Gerri Hirshey, author of Nowhere to Run: The Story of Soul Music
“National Book Award winner McBride dissects the career, legacy, and myth of the Godfather of Soul. One of the most iconic figures in pop music, James Brown is also one of the most unknown and falsely represented figures in American cultural history. . . . An unconventional and fascinating portrait of Soul Brother No. 1 and the significance of his rise and fall in American culture.”—Kirkus Reviews
From the Hardcover edition. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
was signing autographs. So my relationship with James goes way back. I loved this book, it was real, it was "deep", it made very astute and insightful observations into the black experience in America which by the way is even more relevant today. The book is as much about James Brown as it is about the music industry, and the legal system which revictimized James Brown and his incredibly stupid, and greedy heirs.I read this book after reading Colson Whitehead "Underground Railroad". That book left an imprint on my soul with its beautiful prose and tragic, incredibly barbaric retelling of the horrors of slavery which tried and failed to destroy the pure joy, intelligence and creativity of black people. This book had me listening to "Night Train" and baking a peach cobbler and being swept away by the telling of the story. James Brown and John Coltrane, James McBride and Colson Whitehead, Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison... Barack and Michele Obama.....collard greens and gumbo.... but still we"rise". James McBride and Colson Whitehead should be required reading for everyone who loves the music and life that is the black
experience in America.
After reading the book, all I could do was shake my head in disbelief that so many people stubbornly refuse to do the right thing and honor Mr. Brown’s final wishes and help maintain his legacy. The man should be honored for his positive contributions. People are squabbling over his money, control of his estate – even his body. From what I’ve read few people even know where and in what manner the man is buried. His last home should be open like Graceland, and the fans allowed to pay their respects. Prince hasn’t been dead a year and they already have his house/studio open to the public!
I could not put this book down until I finished reading it. McBride does a fantastic job of describing the local politics and social context of the Augusta area, as well presenting a variety of revealing and moving interviews from those who knew Mr. Brown. True fans might even shed a tear.