The One: RJ Smith’s Biography of James Brown
When James Brown’s children and I brought his body back to Harlem from Georgia after his untimely death in 2006, tens of thousands greeted us in the streets upon our arrival. There were no stars, no concerts; just everyday folks paying homage to the Godfather of Soul (and so much more) in person. As we laid him in state at the Apollo Theater, we took a moment to absorb this extraordinary show of support. I remember walking the streets of Harlem and shaking hands with many gathered outside the Apollo that day, and I’ll never forget a writer who came up to me and said he was shocked by the sheer numbers of people, and taken aback by how much of a revered figure James Brown was. People were often surprised at his relevance, but James never doubted his own significance, or the fact that he was a historic figure and an undeniably game-changing artist. His showmanship and art altered the music world. But James didn’t bring blacks to the mainstream; instead, he brought the mainstream to blacks and made them appreciate and internalize black music and culture themselves. “The One: The Life and Music of James Brown,” by RJ Smith, is the first book to capture this remarkable reality.