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I Feel Good [Hardcover]

James Brown , Marc Eliot


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Book Description

Jan. 4 2005
James Brown has always been a fascinating, controversial figure. From his humble childhood in Georgia, he went on to change the face of American music with hit after hit on the R&B charts. And while he was a courageous public figure in a time of national strife and adversity, his personal life took many destructive turns, leaving a long and difficult path of redemption ahead of him. For the first time in well over a decade, he speaks candidly and at length about his tumultuous, incredible journey.

James Brown moves beyond his music and his much-publicized legal troubles to delve deeply into the highs and lows of his life.

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From Publishers Weekly

"Others may have followed in my wake, but I was the one who turned racist minstrelsy into Black soul—and by doing so, became a cultural force." So claims Brown in the opening pages of his garrulous, vernacular memoir written with the aid of Eliot (author of bios on the Eagles and Bruce Springsteen). And Brown makes a convincing argument, tracing his gutsy transformation from dirt-poor grade school dropout to gospel singer, legendary showman and musical innovator who broke the color barrier of 1950s and '60s pop by melding African-American rhythm and blues with gospel and rock to become the Godfather of Soul. Along with fascinating details about life in the music industry, Brown relates how soul music, which begins on the upbeat (traditional blues began on the downbeat) was a "statement of race, of force, of stature, of stride" and "the perfect marching music for the civil rights era." The "rock-a-soul" that Brown created (along with rockers Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and others) "was not just about rebellion—it was the rebellion itself," he says. Chronicling such peace-seeking yet controversial events as his 1968 U.S.O. tour of Vietnam and his landmark Boston Garden performance the day after Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, Brown cites his own example as a "self-made and therefore self-owned Black man." Though he sometimes attributes his legal, financial and political woes to a racist establishment too eager to judge a black man before his day in court, Brown remains a deeply positive force dedicated to the "international language of music." This is a fascinating memoir of a trailblazer in music and civil rights.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–The 72-year-old Godfather of Soul reflects on the dramatic ups and downs of his life, from the time that doctors pronounced him stillborn until the present. In the '60s, he was the first entertainer to rent out theaters and work for himself. He also created Fair Deal Productions to reflect his vision of how the music industry should operate. He purchased several radio stations, pushed young people to finish their education, and created scholarships for poor black students. Brown identifies performers who influenced his style, such as saxophonist Louis Jordan and singer Jackie Wilson. Likewise, he names celebrities who have modeled themselves after him, including Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. He discusses his role as a pioneer of soul and funk music and points out how disco and rap have affected his career. This inspirational memoir illustrates Brown's strong will to overcome and succeed despite numerous personal tragedies and professional setbacks. He refers to prison time of a decade and a half ago as "poor man's medicine." After the deaths of his son and his third wife, he survived emotionally by throwing himself into his work. Aspiring entertainers can benefit from the business, artistic, and personal advice that Brown interweaves throughout the book.–Joyce Fay Fletcher, Rippon Middle School, Prince William County, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
FOR MANY OF THOSE SO-CALLED BABY BOOMERS WHO grew up pour, fast, and tough on the mean streets of America's grittiest cities, James Brown was their first living cultural icon. Read the first page
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars superbaaaaaaaad Jan. 9 2005
By Y. Van de Velde - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
being a j.b. fan for some three decades now i have all the books about the godfather so his lifestory is not new to me. BUT in this book mr. brown is very open about the downside's.

his drug- and alcohol abuse, relationproblems. the 1988 incident, the incident last year etc. he always denied a lot of stuff and in this book he is honest about those things and that's very positive. if you don't know much about the life of the godfather it's a very informative book and for anyone who loves funk and soul it's a must have !! GET IT !!!

ron roelofsen j.b. collector no.1 ([...]
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Literate, valuable work July 1 2005
By Phil S. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book still does not address many areas I find interesting in James Brown's career but I find it a natural companion to the three other JB books in my collection: Cynthia Rose's "Living In America: The Soul Saga Of James Brown"; Geoff Brown's biography "James Brown"; and ofcourse, the Brown/Tucker "The Godfather Of Soul - James Brown". All three dig deep into this metaphysical musician's mind but this one has a stronger narrative, a bit less guarded: his late '80s fall is described in a more contrite way, for example. His scientific study of his audience is perhaps something new in his dialogue - but he broaches the subject of how music motivates women in a different way than it does men, then immediately moves on to the next thought. This subject should have been expanded upon (especially for those studious fans who remark that even by 2005 standards his live albums contain some of the most overt sexuality, obviously directed at the female fans, ever recorded), but he drops it like he does "Mother Popcorn" on stage these days - the audience sits forward to enjoy something very unusual, one of his most engaging opuses rarely revisited, then falls back after about 45 seconds. Similarly, his admonitions to contemporary rap/hip-hop artists are eloquent but must be deemed a bit self-righteous: there is alot of rough, "adult" content in his catalogue which can't be explained away as "art". However, fans can trace his development into more "cerebral" music, with more and more sensitive ballads and socially-conscious tunes being produced from the late '60s on.
I was happy to read his description of Little Richard's assistance in his early career, but a bit disheartened when he suggested that Penniman was basically a Rock and Roll raver - I find it hard to believe that this publication brought out his true feelings about his Georgia neighbor - the influence is quite obvious and not just on "Chonnie On Chon". Another depressing ommission is with Marva Whitney, his popular lead female vocalist from c.'67 to '70. A recent documentary reveals that Marva traveled To Vietnam with the star but here he simply says that he was only allowed to travel with a small part of his musical backup.
Despite the above concerns, with this book James Brown has shown the literary world that he is a writer. Ofcourse this was obvious to the musical world - just listen to "Don't Be A Drop Out", "I Don't Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing", "The Man In The Glass", "I'm Not Demanding", "It's Christmas Time", and "Peace In The World".
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I'm a big JB fan....but..... July 21 2006
By Paul Davanzo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am a GIGANTIC James Brown fan, I have 100 albums, 130 singles, I've met him 5 times, seen him live over 100 times since 1971, had lunch with him in NYC, and I am the 'Paul' in the JB section of Gerri Hirshey's nice history of soul music NOWHERE TO RUN, but if this book was written by James Brown or if he even had much to tell the writer, I'll eat my refrigerator. It is so full of errors that it is laughable. One of the most glaring errors was when Mr. Brown 'supposedly' said, "SAY IT LOUD was where funk started" or something to that effect. That is so ridiculous. James Brown would NEVER say such a thing! Any student of funk knows that COLD SWEAT was the quintessentional funk piece and it is not even mentioned in the book!!! The style of Mr. Brown's sentences that are attributed to him sound NOTHING like him. I have no idea why this was put out. The other 'autobiography' written over a decade ago was more relevent and much better written, THE GODFATHER OF SOUL by JB and Bruce Tucker. Someone, (Alan Leeds?) needs to write a 600 page comprehensive biography of Mr. Brown with much more detail.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Memoir Told by Mr. Brown As Only He Could Tell It... March 9 2007
By Pamela Jarmon-Wade - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I have read several memoirs of famous people and this one has been the best! Marc Eliot provides an awesome 37 page introduction that covers Mr. Brown's life and career. It is obvious that Marc Eliot has much admiration and respect for this complex, yet extra talented "Man's Man" (a term that Mr. Brown uses in the book that was meant to be a compliment).

I have always been a fan of James Brown, but had never known much about his personal life. Once the disconsolate news of his death hit the media on December 25, 2006, the television and papers were chock-full of positive and negative things about Mr. Brown. His fourth wife or companion rushed pell-mell to the media upon his death and caused an embarrassing blitz which has happened to him before and in this book, Mr. Brown provides a logical and probably factual explanation for the previous incidents.

Mr. Brown was the first singer to own his personal private jet and record a live album with no separation of tracks. Life's lessons taught him that the one in power is the one who makes the money and that is usually one who works for himself. The lesson learned is "power" not "rich". James Brown states in the book that Elvis got 75% of his style from him (p. 50). Little Richard discovered James Brown and his Famous Flames and is also responsible for his success.

This memoir contains so much personal and professional information. Mr. Brown gives the reader an inside look into "the good, bad, and ugly" of the music business. The indept overview of the music business that kept most artist broke, the payola scandal, and his radio station ownership experience. Things that he discussed in this book was probably quotidian for his inner circle. However, he did not have to reveal as much about his thoughts, feelings, and life to the public. That is why this is a memoir told as only he could tell it and I appreciate him leaving this book behind for generations to come.

He discussed his affiliations with the United States President and the struggles that ensued to get approved to perform in Vietnam. Not only does the reader get political and business info from The Godfather of Soul, but then he flips to the lighter side of loving cowboys and the western movie channel. Mr. Brown has Apache American Indian in his bloodline (p. 54). The details about his relationship with his birth mother was another sad chapter in his life, but he rose above it all.

Reading this book gave me the feeling that Mr. Brown was actually talking to me, sharing his wisdom, philosophy on life. My dad and James Brown both said, "At threescore and ten and counting, I have lived all the years that God allotted me" (p. 259). Mr. Brown lived his life to the fullest, he kept his pride and integrity no matter what adversity he encountered on his life's journey. The only thing this book left me hanging on was expecting his comments on the singer Lynn Collins and more details on the black movie soundtrack from the 1970s.

In summary, if you are looking for a book about James Brown that is apropos... this is it.

By:

Pam Jarmon-Wade
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Think I might prefer a biography of the "Godfather of Soul" Feb. 19 2005
By Paul Tognetti - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I have not read very many memoirs so it is difficult for me to compare "I Feel Good: A Memoir of a Life of Soul" to other such works. Having said that I found this book to be quite uneven and at times even tedious. As somebody who is keenly interested in the history of American popular music I gained some pretty valuable insights into the man who would become an American icon. I was particularly interested in James Brown's early years in the music business. His breakthrough recordings with the Famous Flames at Syd Nathan's King Records literally created a whole new genre of music. And of course his "live" performances are legendary. It is no wonder JB has been described for decades as the "hardest working man in show business."

"I Feel Good" gets off to a pretty fast start and I found lots of valuable information and insights in the first half of the book. However, as time went on I found myself becoming less and less interested as Mr. Brown (he likes to refer to everyone as Mr.) rambles on and on about his personal life. There were a lot of things there that I simply did not want or need to know. James Brown is a complex individual who appears to be full of contradictions. He has befriended liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats. He is fiercely patriotic. And make no mistake about it. James Brown is smart as a whip and has committed his entire career to uplifting Blacks in America. He always has and still does present a positive message to black youth in this country. Compare that to a lot of the trash heard on the radio these days and one has to conclude that throughout his storied career James Brown has been a force for positive change in this country.

In the final analysis "I Feel Good: A Memoir of a Life of Soul" is okay but nothing more. It appears that writing his memoir was important to James Brown and something he has wanted to do for many years. That is his privilege and ultimately important for the historical record.But I believe a biography of "The Godfather of Soul" by a professional writer could be so much more interesting. I look forward to the day when such a book is written.

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