When I was growing up in Nigeria my father was like a magnificent rumor. I had memories of the man but I could never remember the last conversation we just had, he never stuck around long enough. Yet outside our house he was the life of the party in every one else’s eyes, a true urban legend. He used to throw epic christmas parties, lasted days, always two or three large live animals beheaded, blood spilling on sand that turned into sweet smelling grilled meat and alcohol overflowing. My father is still a legend in many circles but I never knew the man. Reading “Inside the Godfather” by Daryl Brown, son of James Brown, it occurs to me I might have had the same experience had my father ever come to some wider fame. There is an obvious distortion in the “man of the people” and the man you know, and maybe sometimes, as you grow older, it’s easier to merge the two visions, just to get by.
“Inside the Godfather” is a new autobiography about James Brown written by his son Daryl Brown and Michael P. Chabries. Daryl Brown was on tour with his father and played with him on many of his tracks. However, still a lot of the book comes off as third-party accounts of James Brown, strangely, including his son’s direct recollections feel the same, somewhat distant but loving.
Daryl Brown’s insinuations that James Brown was murdered provide the most interesting turns. It extends to other family members who died around the time, and even the King of Pop. Brown writes: “Michael (Jackson) wanted out. He had risen to the top of the game. He knew his life was in jeopardy. I was not surprised that he died by an overdose administered by someone else’s hands. When a celebrity or person in power no longer wants to cooperate, that is when your life is in jeopardy. My father’s life was in jeopardy. Michael Jackson’s life was in jeopardy.” So the narrative gets a little rocky as far as verified tales go.
But the writer is candid about his father’s struggle with addiction, and there is some insight from friends and family about how difficult it was to help the legend in the end. However, most of it comes off muddied, perhaps like any story of any family would, filled with pain, innuendo, and regret. I could not now imagine what I would write about my own father if the time came, but my father was not James Brown, so perhaps it is easier to judge from where we all sit – easier to assume we would better separate father from legend. But maybe there’s no separating them, no matter how hard we try.
We shared some questions with Daryl Brown who took the time to answer.
How would you describe your relationship with your father, in your early years and closer to his passing? What influence would you say he had on the person you became?
DB: In my early years I was scared of my father but I loved him just the same. When I grew older I was not scared of him at all and I had a lot of respect for him and I was always his number one fan!
What would you say is the biggest misconception the public might have about James Brown?
DB: That he was an out of control womanizer; James Brown was in control of everything he did. My dad gave millions of dollars to charitable causes every year and constantly helped those in need. The public loves to find the negative in people and focus on the negative in people. My book sheds light on the positive of my dad.
How did you decide to write “Inside the Godfather”? And what did you learn in the process about your father that you did not previously know or understand?
DB: I thought it was my duty as his son to set the record straight. I may not have agreed with everything that my dad did but I did understand why he did what he did, for every cause there is an effect, for every effect there is a cause.
You have said Universal Studios did not consult with you to make the upcoming movie “Get on Up,” based on the James Brown story. What are some exaggerations you believe this lack of consultation caused in the film? Or is the film completely accurate in its portrayal of the life of James Brown?
DB: The movie “Get on Up” is not even close to the life of James Brown. The book is based on my life with my dad and the people that were in his inner circle that were with him on a daily basis, the movie did not consult with any of his inner circle that are in the book. The book is non-fiction and from what I can tell the movie is fictional. This book is the first book about James Brown that cuts to the chase and talks the nitty gritty truth.
What did your father imagine his legacy was going to be?
DB: My dad was a giver; this is where he gained his true pleasure in life, giving was even part of his performing, he gave his audiences everything he had. My dad was not trying to be a legacy he was just working everyday to the best of his ability, he was very competitive. He was the one and only James Brown.