The definitive biography of the Godfather of Soul, charting his extraordinary life as entrepreneur, civil rights activist, and the most innovative musician of our time.
Forget Elvis Presley. Forget Bob Dylan. Forget the Beatles. The most important musician of the 20th century was James Brown. Full of unprecedented research and never-before-heard interviews, The One is a portrait of a man whose fascinating life helps us understand the music he made.
The musical genius who all but created funk, and dominated R&B and pop, was born into abject poverty in South Carolina, and raised in rural Georgia amidst violent racial tensions. He grew up in a brothel owned by his aunt, ended up in a juvenile prison at age 16, and upon his release met his first band mates, members of the group that would become the Famous Flames. Brown’s revolutionary music, defined by a concept he referred to as “the One,” grew from the Southern soil of his youth, the drumbeat of old slave songs, and the sound and spirit of the gospel. From the Chitlin’ Circuit to the Apollo Theater, Brown amassed 44 Billboard Top 40 hit singles, played up to 350 shows a year at his peak, and was a showman like no other.
The One is a meticulously researched and beautifully written account that not only delves into the complexities of Brown as an artist, but also explores his role in the Black Power movement, his high-profile friendships, his complicated personal life, and his loss (and gain) of several fortunes. Brown is deeper, more contradictory, and more important than the song-and-dance man he has been rendered in the past. RJ Smith has crafted a fascinating biography that places Brown in his proper place in the pantheon of music legends, blending this icon’s life with the cultural history of a pivotal era.
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