James Sullivan

The Hardest Working Man: How James Brown Saved the Soul of America [Gotham]

Books Reviews James Brown
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James Sullivan

It’s a (hard-working) man’s world

Back when celebrities were courageous enough to talk race into a microphone and the general public cared to hear, James Brown was King. The Godfather of Soul may have very well secured this particular crown on April 5, 1968—less than a day after civil-rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was slain on a Memphis hotel balcony. That night, on the Boston Garden stage, Brown charged into “Get It Together,” and calmed the anxious crowd in attendance, the riot police and the local TV audience.

In this insightful telling of the career of James Brown, James Sullivan vividly explains how the performer rose to such influence. It’s an especially important lesson two years after Brown’s death, when it seems his legacy is quickly being reduced to bits of hip-hop songs, Eddie Murphy TV parodies and real-life family feuds.