The One: The Life and Music of James Brown

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Penguin, Mar 15, 2012 - Biography & Autobiography - 464 pages
24 Reviews
The definitive biography of James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, with fascinating findings on his life as a Civil Rights activist, an entrepreneur, and the most innovative musician of our time

Playing 350 shows a year at his peak, with more than forty Billboard hits, James Brown was a dazzling showman who transformed American music. His life offstage was just as vibrant, and until now no biographer has delivered a complete profile. The One draws on interviews with more than 100 people who knew Brown personally or played with him professionally. Using these sources, award-winning writer RJ Smith draws a portrait of a man whose twisted and amazing life helps us to understand the music he made.

The One delves deeply into the story of a man who was raised in abject-almost medieval-poverty in the segregated South but grew up to earn (and lose) several fortunes. Covering everything from Brown's unconventional childhood (his aunt ran a bordello), to his role in the Black Power movement, which used "Say It Loud (I'm Black and Proud)" as its anthem, to his high-profile friendships, to his complicated family life, Smith's meticulous research and sparkling 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 inspires pity, awe, and revulsion. As Smith traces the legend's reinvention of funk, soul, R&B, and pop, he gives this history a melody all its own.


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User Review  - ferness - LibraryThing

This is an amazing overview of the Hardest Working Man in Show Business. After reading about his beginnings, I'm truly surprised at the heights he reached, his incredible business savvy, and his ... Read full review

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User Review  - Caryn.Rose - LibraryThing

This is the best rock and roll biography I've read in the last 10 years. The writing is amazing, the scholarship impeccable; there is warmth and tone and voice and the writer is on his subject's side ... Read full review

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