I FEEL GOOD: A Memoir of a Life of Soul

James Brown, Author, Marc Eliot, Author , with an intro. by Marc Eliot. NAL $24.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-451-21393-8

"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. Agent, Mel Berger. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 12/20/2004
Release date: 01/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
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