KILL 'EM AND LEAVE: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul

KILL 'EM AND LEAVE                                          JAMES McBRIDE

Kill ’Em and Leave is more than a book about James Brown. Brown’s rough-and-tumble life, through McBride’s lens, is an unsettling metaphor for American life: the tension between North and South, black and white, rich and poor. McBride’s travels take him to forgotten corners of Brown’s never-before-revealed history: the country town where Brown’s family and thousands of others were displaced by America’s largest nuclear power bomb-making facility; a South Carolina field where a long-forgotten cousin recounts, in the dead of night, a fuller history of Brown’s sharecropping childhood, which until now has been a mystery. McBride seeks out the American expatriate in England who co-created the James Brown sound, visits the trusted right-hand manager who worked with Brown for forty-one years, and interviews Brown’s most influential nonmusical creation, his “adopted son,” the Reverend Al Sharpton. He describes the stirring visit of Michael Jackson to the Augusta, Georgia, funeral home where the King of Pop sat up all night with the body of his musical godfather, spends hours talking with Brown’s first wife, and lays bare the Dickensian legal contest over James Brown’s estate, a fight that has consumed careers; prevented any money from reaching the poor schoolchildren in Georgia and South Carolina, as instructed in his will; cost Brown’s estate millions in legal fees; and left James Brown’s body to lie for more than eight years in a gilded coffin in his daughter’s yard in South Carolina.

James McBride is one of the most distinctive and electric literary voices in America today, and part of the pleasure of his narrative is being in his presence, coming to understand Brown through McBride’s own insights as a black musician with Southern roots. Kill ’Em and Leave is a song unearthing and celebrating James Brown’s great legacy: the cultural landscape of America today.

This was a very interesting book. Thinking at first that this was going to be like a normal bio I was wrong. The author takes you on a journey through the South and its racism, and good ol boy system. To find out the history of James Brown, but also why the trust he set up over 100 million dollars for poor children of South Carolina to go to college has not been spent. What has been spent is millions upon millions of fees by lawyers. Who have filed and refiled against the estate by family members mostly. The same family members who could not decide where to have his funeral so they had three. His tomb is in the front yard of one of his daughters. The same family that sued the men who actually saved his career and got him out of his tax problem, and then helped him make money. Because of their lawsuit against that man he is now in financial ruin, his was killed in an accident, his wife tried to kill herself, and the list goes on for him. That is just one person. The shady deals and politics of South Carolina even made the State of Georgia bow out of their claim to money that was left by his estate. The way the author takes you on this journey and brings you into a small town dinner to sit down and talk to a man, that is what makes this book. It his journey through the South and the people that he meets and you meet along with through this journey. James Brown music lives on and will always. I did enjoy his looking back at the musicians that played in his band, all of them were excellent ones and most went on to have or continued to have long jazz careers. That was a nice tidbit. Overall a good book well written. I got this book from netgalley. I gave it 5 stars. Follow us at 

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