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Sunday, December 25, 2016

#87 - Kill 'Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown - James McBride

Title:  Kill ‘Em and Leave:  Searching for James Brown
Author:   James McBride
Genre:  Biography
Category:  Non-Fiction
Rating:  A
Published:  2016
Dates:  12/15/16 – 12/25/16
CDs/Hours:  8/9

Ten years ago today, December 25, 2006, James Brown passed away.  His biographer, James McBride, a noted, professional musician himself, is a natural to tell Brown’s story and has handled a complicated man well.   James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, was the role model for musicians like Michael Jackson, himself the King of Pop.
Other players in Brown’s life and death -- Reverend Al Sharpton, Brown’s adopted son; Reed, the undertaker; William Orlando Brown, James Brown’s grandson; and Terry Brown, James Brown’s son. 
Brown’s rough and tumble life, as seen through McBride’s lens, is unsettling.  The tragedy is that Brown’s estate was meant to fund educations for poor schoolchildren in Georgia and South Carolina.  Brown was generous and at the end of many of his performances gave out bicycles to under-privileged kids.  He always enforced in youngsters the importance of getting an education and that’s what he wanted more than anything for them to have.  Yet, upon his death, some family members and would-be-heirs came out of the woodwork, demanding a share.  As a result, the lawyers that James Brown hired early on in his career fought a brilliant battle with the courts and IRS to secure his estate.  Like the back-cover comment indicates, McBride “lays bare the Dickensian legal contest over Brown’s estate, a fight that has consumed careers … and cost Brown’s estate millions in legal fees.”
This review does not do justice to the story.   There is so much more about a man people remember as passionate about music, who spent time in prison, was unkind to women and regretted his hard-heartedness.  “Kill ‘Em and Leave is a song unearthing and celebrating James Brown’s great legacy.” 
I'm hoping to see some awards for this saga in the future.

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