I Feel Good Hardcover – Jan 4 2005
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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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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 ([...]
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.
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".
"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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