‘Kill ‘Em And Leave’: James McBride Finds James Brown

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Renowned novelist James McBride, with a deep new take on the godfather of soul, James Brown.

James Brown and the Famous Flames, performing at New York City's Apollo Theater in 1964. (Creative Commons / Don Paulsen)
James Brown and the Famous Flames, performing at New York City's Apollo Theater in 1964. (Creative Commons / Don Paulsen)

Everybody knows James Brown. Godfather of Soul. The hardest working man in show biz. The shine, the blazing smile, the hair, the voice – and the electric moves that just knocked you out. My guest today, novelist and memoirist James McBride, says there is not one piece of American pop that doesn’t have James Brown in it. He also says Brown was the most misunderstood African-American figure of the last 300 years.  This hour On Point, James McBride on the real James Brown.
-- Tom Ashbrook


James McBride, National Book Award-winning author, musician and screenwriter. Author of the new book, "Kill 'Em And Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul." Also author of "The Good Lord Bird" and "The Color of Water," among others.

From Tom’s Reading List

The Wall Street Journal: Emphasizing the Downbeat — "The Brown who emerges from Mr. McBride’s dogged research bears little resemblance to the cartoonish parody presented in the biopic. Far from a drug-addled, unhinged nut, Brown was a man who, born into abject poverty, worked relentlessly to perfect his music and to present a carefully composed face to the world, a man who for most of his life rarely cursed or drank or smoked, and who was so proud that he 'sat in a hair dryer for three hours after every show, because he always wanted the public to see him ‘clean and proper.’'"

WBUR Artery: Writer James McBride Says It Loud: The Proud But Tragic Story Of James Brown — "James Brown, who died Christmas Day in 2006, was a troubled man and often 'outright cruel,' according to a bandmember. He had four wives and at least 11 children — he was abusive to women and the children had to make appointments to see him at one point. Yet he had a code of conduct that far surpasses that of the average man or woman. He helped keep Boston from erupting in flames on April 5, 1968, when he performed at the Boston Garden, the day after the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination."

AV Club: Kill ’Em And Leave grapples with the life and legacy of James Brown — "Kill ’Em And Leave, James McBride’s slender new book about James Brown, falls somewhere between a biography of its elusive subject, a personal history of its very open author, an artistic consideration of one musician by another, and an angry and heartfelt look at the ways black culture is co-opted, omitted, or manipulated in popular narratives, the ways it is used and abused."

Read An Excerpt Of "Kill 'Em And Leave" By James McBride


Watch An Iconic 1964 James Brown Performance At T.A.M.I.

This program aired on April 7, 2016.


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