The Hardest Working Man: How James Brown Saved the Soul of America

( 2 )

Overview

The untold story of the night a divide nation turned to James Brown—and he delivered hope and calm in the form of an immortal concert 

Since James Brown's death in December 2006, the Godfather of Soul has received many stirring tributes. Yet few have addressed his contribution in the darkest hour of the Civil Rights movement. Telling for the first time the story of his historic Boston Garden concert the day after Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination, The Hardest ...

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The Hardest Working Man: How James Brown Saved the Soul of America

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Overview

The untold story of the night a divide nation turned to James Brown—and he delivered hope and calm in the form of an immortal concert 

Since James Brown's death in December 2006, the Godfather of Soul has received many stirring tributes. Yet few have addressed his contribution in the darkest hour of the Civil Rights movement. Telling for the first time the story of his historic Boston Garden concert the day after Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination, The Hardest Working Man captures the magnificent achievements that made Brown an icon of American popular culture. 

Sullivan details the charged atmosphere in Boston, Brown's fight against city officials to take the stage, and the electric performance he delivered. Through the prism of this one concert, Sullivan also charts Brown's incredible rise from poverty to self-made millionaire, his enormous influence on popular music, and his complex relationship with the Civil Rights movement, making The Hardest Working Man both a tribute to an unforgettable concert and a rousing biography of a revolutionary musician.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

As Boston Globe columnist Sullivan points out in this book, Brown's personal life (sexual exploits, spousal abuse, jail time) obscured a public persona that encouraged African-American children not to drop out of school and demanded that his African-American brothers and sisters respect themselves rather than putting themselves down. At the center of the book is Brown's concert at the Boston Garden on the night following Martin Luther King's assassination in 1968. Because of rising tensions among African-Americans in the city, Mayor Kevin White's first impulse was to cancel Brown's concert. Yet realizing that ticket holders might be just as angry over a canceled concert as they might be impassioned to riot by a raucous one, he and Brown worked out a deal to allow the concert to go on. Once on stage, Brown opened with his by-then famous "Please, Please, Please," which became that night a rallying cry for his audience to respect themselves and others, just as King had done. Sullivan only briefly traces Brown's rise and fall as a musician from his early days in Edgefield, S.C., to his death in Augusta, Ga., as he recovers a facet of James Brown as a political and racial leader. (Nov.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

The godfather of soul, Brown died in 2006. This snapshot of his personal and public lives focuses on his concert in Boston following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Sullivan, a contributor to the Boston Globe, also addresses Brown's later years, which included arrests, affairs, domestic violence, and tax evasion.


—Ann Burns
Kirkus Reviews
A music journalist looks at one of the soul legend's key performances-as well as his overall legacy. By the late '60s, notes Boston Globe contributor Sullivan, Brown was "Soul Brother Number One to black America." On April 5, 1968, one day after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., Brown played what would become a landmark show at the Boston Garden. But the show almost didn't occur. As the city's traditionally black neighborhoods hovered on the verge of chaos-a fate that befell many cities around the country following King's death-Garden officials and Mayor Kevin White decided to cancel the concert. However, after much negotiating with city counsilor Tom Atkins, activist Paul Parks and others, they agreed that "the concert would have a healing effect on the city"-especially since they decided to televise the event live. After an argument over the fee for his appearance, the Godfather of Soul took the stage, pleading peace and turning in an electric, if somewhat ragged, performance. Because most of the audience who couldn't make it to the show chose to watch at home, Boston's streets remained mercifully free of violence. With serviceable prose, Sullivan ably navigates the many conflicting allegiances surrounding the event, taking time to chronicle Brown's rise to fame and the concurrent increase in civil-rights agitation and its reflection in the music of the time. He charts Brown's burgeoning relationship with Al Sharpton and other civil-rights leaders, and examines the backlash the entertainer endured when he supported Richard Nixon. (During a 1973 performance at The Apollo, one banner read, "James Brown, Nixon's Clown.") Throughout the narrative, Sullivan provides intermittentlyinsightful commentary on Brown's music, duly recognizing that "his crucial innovation was to hear each instrument in his orchestra as another form of percussion." Continuing in that vein, the author closes by citing musicians whose sound was most directly influenced by Brown, including Afrika Bambaataa, Run-DMC, Marley Marl and Big Daddy Kane. Sullivan may not capture the fiery soul of the best James Brown performance, but he shines a light on an important instance of music affecting real change. Agent: Paul Bresnick/Paul Bresnick Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781592404902
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/3/2009
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 549,654
  • Product dimensions: 5.46 (w) x 8.08 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

JAMES SULLIVAN was a pop culture critic at the San Francisco Chronicle for seven years, and has also written for The Boston Globe, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Book.

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Table of Contents


Foreword Chuck D.
Overture 3
1 Lost Someone 7
2 Bewildered 17
3 Think 23
4 Bring It Up 43
5 Try Me 65
6 Cold Sweat 85
7 Soul Pride, Pt. 1 91
8 Things Got to Get Better 123
9 Get It Together 141
10 It's a New Day 161
11 It's Too Funky in Here 179
12 Reality 187
13 Unity, Pt. 1 199 Coda 213 Notes 217 Acknowledgments 229 Index 231
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 14, 2014

    Billed as the story behind James Brown¿s concert in Boston held

    Billed as the story behind James Brown’s concert in Boston held in the shadow of MLK’s assassination, but “The Hardest Working Man” is more of an overview of Brown’s career and work in the community.  While the author does tell the story of the Boston show and does a good job of tying much of the information he presents to the show, it’s clear that the show just didn’t offer enough to write about to fill the entire book.  If you’re a big JB fan (or want to learn more about him) this book will be right up your alley.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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