Thousands Fill Hometown Arena For Brown Tribute

At a gathering marked by joy more than sorrow, thousands of James Brown's fans and friends filled an Augusta, Ga., arena bearing his name Saturday for their final tribute to the homegrown singer known

At a gathering marked by joy more than sorrow, thousands of James Brown's fans and friends filled an Augusta, Ga., arena bearing his name Saturday for their final tribute to the homegrown singer known as the godfather of soul.

The farewell tour for Brown -- loved in Augusta as much for his generosity and influence as for his music -- wound down with an afternoon funeral, two days after a boisterous viewing in the famed Apollo Theater in New York.

More than 8,500 fans packed James Brown Arena, where Brown lay in front of the bandstand in his third outfit in three days -- a black jacket and gloves, red shirt and sequined shoes. As the service began shortly after 1 p.m., dozens of friends and relatives filed slowly past the casket.

The procession was followed by a video of Brown's last performance in Augusta and his final concert in London -- where he performed a slow, soulful version of Ray Charles' "Georgia on My Mind."

The Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and a tearful Michael Jackson were among those who took turns at the podium overlooking the casket.

"We come to thank God for James Brown, because only God could have made a James Brown possible," said Sharpton, a longtime Brown confidant who also spoke at a boisterous ceremony Thursday at the Apollo Theater and a private service Friday.

Michael Jackson, whose arrival sparked a roar from the crowd, bowed before the casket and shared a hug with Sharpton just as Brown's latest backup band, the Soul Generals, started to play.

"James Brown is my greatest inspiration," the pop star told mourners, adding that when he was a child, his mother would wake him, regardless of the hour, whenever Brown was on TV. "When I saw him move, I was mesmerized," Jackson said. "I knew that's what I wanted to do for the rest of my life because of James Brown."


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