Follow Us on Twitter

James Brown - Thousands honour late legend

James Brown

Story by Jack Foley

THOUSANDS of people gathered in New York’s Harlem to pay tribute to late US soul star James Brown, who died on Christmas Day, aged 73.

Fans sang and danced to his music as his body was transported in a gold casket through the streets on a horse-drawn carriage. His body then lay in state at one of his favourite venues, the Apollo Theatre [the stage where he made his debut in 1956].

Among the many people paying their respects was black civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton, who said: “This man stood for us, the common man. It was James Brown that with one song erased the word negro from our vocabulary forever and made us say it and say it loud, that we were black and we were proud.

“He proved to us that if you believe in God and you believe in yourself, you can make it no matter what.”

Rev Sharpton managed Brown during ’70s as he rose to fame and declared the icon to be a great symbol for African-Americans as both a social leader and innovator.

“We didn’t line these streets because he had hits,” he continued. “Plenty of people had hits – but none got them on their own terms.

“He never bent, buckled or bowed. He never diluted his music. They’d say Mr Brown, ‘you got to water it down’, and he’d say, ‘if you didn’t want James Brown you shouldn’t have booked me’.”

James Brown, affectionately referred to as “the Godfather of Soul”, died of heart failure brought on by pneumonia in Atlanta on Monday.

Since then, tributes have been pouring in from friends, relatives, civic leaders, fellow musicians and anyone who has ever been influenced by the soul legend.

The Harlem community also ensured that his death was as much a celebration of his life and music, as it was a fond farewell to a much loved son.

Brown’s music filled the auditorium where his body lay in state as fans marched quietly past his open gold coffin. Outside, people danced in the street, reminisced with each other and sang the words to some of his greatest hits.

Brown’s body has now been taken to his hometown of Augusta, Georgia, for a private ceremony today (Friday). On Saturday, there will be a special viewing of the body for fans at the city’s 8,500-seat James Brown Arena, before a public funeral overseen by Reverend Sharpton.

Elsewhere in America, singer Chaka Khan has announced that she will perform in place of Brown at a special New Year’s Eve show at BB King’s Blues Club in New York.

While Spike Lee has announced a film project on the life of the soul legend – the music for which had already been approved by Brown before his death.

James Brown: Read our obituary