When Richard couldn’t make some 1955 shows because of a scheduling conflict, James Brown did the shows for him, impersonating Richard. Brown and Richard had the same manager at the time – Clint Brantley – who hatched the plan. No one in any audience ever noticed or complained – even though he never touched the piano.
By the time he was in his 30s, James Brown was more than a dominant musical voice: he was an outstanding African-American personality, period. Important enough to be drawn into the murky waters of national politics as an inspiration and role model, he was also feared and sometimes ridiculed. But he would not be denied.
Nearly stillborn, then revived by an aunt in a country shack in the piney woods outside Barnwell, South Carolina, on May 3, 1933, Brown was determined to be Somebody. He called his group “Famous” before they had a right to; called himself “Mr. Dynamite” before his first Pop hit; and proclaimed himself “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business” before the music business knew his name. His was a fantasy, a sweet dream. But James Brown had singular talent, and the vision to hire the baddest. In his own time, he became “Soul Brother Number ONE,” a larger-than-life Godfather of Soul.
“JAMES BROWN is a concept, a vibration, a dance,” he once said. “It’s not me, the man. JAMES BROWN is a freedom I created for humanity.”
Some say it was a freedom too bold. Night after night, on stage and in the studio, his blood swirled, his legs split and his body shook. But talking to a crowd stretched at his feet in the late 1960s, James Brown reassured them: “If you ain’t got enough soul, let me know. I’ll loan you some! Huh! I got enough soul to burn.”