I read Kill ‘Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul by James McBride about two months ago and totally forgot to review it. Luckily, I have a habit of listing books I am reading on GoodReads and I was just there today and saw it still listed as “Reading.”
So what about the book? Well, it was a very interesting look at some of the unknown aspects of James Brown’s life. McBride pieces together a host of stories for people close to the Godfather of Soul.
I’ve long been a fan of his music – something that only grew exponentially when (as one of the first podcasters in history) I was doing a show called The PMC Top 10. (PMC = Pod Music Countdown.) In that show, I counted down the most podcasted songs around the globe. I was even called The Hardest Working Man in Podcasting at the time because I was running 5 or 6 different weekly shows. More than a similar nickname, James Brown debuted his final release on that show. (It came at a time when Clear Channel was not interested in artists that weren’t teenager and cute.)
Enough about my ties to Brown. The book was a good look at the parts of his life that I didn’t know. The fact that he practically raised the Reverend Al Sharpton was a surprise. Brown’s work in the civil rights movement was also very interesting.
More than the historical look at his life (which was fascinating) the look at him as a man was even more so. The showman is what everyone knows of James Brown. Less known are things like the iron-fisted band leader and company owner, the insecure old man that had to keep playing because he had few friends and little family and the intense gathering of vultures brought about by his death and the fight over his fortune.
Yes, there are times when the book became way too much about author, James McBride. In those moments, he comes across as just another vulture picking at Brown’s bones.
by Chris Doelle