“Godfather of Soul”James Brown remained the hardest-working man in show business to the end, telling friends from his hospital bed that he’d be in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, even though he had pneumonia. His heart gave out a few hours later, on Christmas morning.
All Christmas day, famous fans from Mick Jagger to Snoop Dogg to the Rev. Al Sharpton shared memories of their mentor and idol, while lesser-known fans left candles on Brown’s Hollywood Walk of Fame star in Los Angeles and streamed to his statue in his boyhood hometown of Augusta, Ga., piling mementos and flowers at its base.
“Y’all lost the Godfather of Soul, but I lost my father. I know the whole world loved him just as much as we loved him, so we’re not mourning by ourselves,” Brown’s daughter Venisha Brown told the Augusta Chronicle as she stood near the statue, fighting back tears.
The 73-year-old pompadoured dynamo, whose classic singles include “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and “I Got You (I Feel Good),” died of heart failure less than two days after he had been hospitalized with pneumonia and only three days after leading his annual holiday toy giveaway in Augusta.
“I ain’t got the same energy,” Brown had told the New York Post a week earlier as he discussed his planned concert tour, “but I’m sharper. Father Time, knowledge and prayer — I pray a lot,” Brown had said. He described himself as “like Will Rogers: I love everybody. So this is not a hard job for me.”
The entertainer with the rough-edged voice and flashy footwork also had diabetes and prostate cancer that was in remission. But he initially seemed fine at the hospital and talked about his New Year’s Eve show at B.B. King’s Blues Club in New York, his manager Frank Copsidas said.
Brown was himself to the end, at one point saying, “I’m going away tonight,” said friend Charles Bobbit, who was with Brown when he died. “I didn’t want to believe him,” he said. A short time later, Brown sighed quietly, closed his eyes and died, Bobbit said.
One of the major musical influences of the past 50 years, James Brown was to rhythm and dance music what Bob Dylan was to lyrics. “He was a whirlwind of energy and precision, and he was always very generous and supportive to me in the early days of the Stones,” Mick Jagger said. “His passing is a huge loss to music.” Rapper Snoop Dogg called him “my soul inspiration.”
“He made soul music a world music,” said Sharpton, who toured with Brown in the 1970s and imitates his hairstyle to this day. “What James Brown was to music in terms of soul and hip-hop, rap, all of that, is what Bach was to classical music. This is a guy who literally changed the music industry. He put everybody on a different beat, a different style of music. He pioneered it.”
Sharpton will officiate at Brown’s funeral service, details of which were still incomplete, Copsidas said.
Brown’s daughter-in-law Diane Dean Rouse told the Augusta Chronicle she hoped the funeral would be open to the people of Augusta. “He would want it open because he would want everybody to get there and because that’s who he loved,” she said.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.