The One: The Life and Music of James Brown

The One: The Life and Music of James Brown

3.3 6
by RJ Smith
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

The definitive biography of James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, with fascinating findings on his life as a Civil Rights activist, an entrepreneur, and the most innovative musician of our time.

Playing 350 shows a year at his peak, with more than forty Billboard hits, James Brown was a dazzling showman who transformed American music. His life

See more details below

Overview

The definitive biography of James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, with fascinating findings on his life as a Civil Rights activist, an entrepreneur, and the most innovative musician of our time.

Playing 350 shows a year at his peak, with more than forty Billboard hits, James Brown was a dazzling showman who transformed American music. His life offstage was just as vibrant, but until now no biographer has delivered a complete profile. The One draws on interviews with more than 100 people who knew Brown personally or played with him professionally. Using these sources, award-winning writer RJ Smith draws a portrait of a man whose twisted and amazing life helps us to understand the music he made.

The One delves deeply into the story of a man who was raised in abject poverty in the segregated South but grew up to earn (and lose) several fortunes. Covering everything from Brown's unconventional childhood (his aunt ran a bordello), to his role in the Black Power movement, which used "Say It Loud (I'm Black and Proud)" as its anthem, to his high-profile friendships, to his complicated family life, Smith's meticulous research and sparkling prose blend biography with a cultural history of a pivotal era. At the heart of The One is Brown's musical genius, as Smith traces the legend's reinvention of funk, soul, R&B, and pop, and his evolution as an artist whose crucial influence spans at least 5 decades.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Drawing on in-depth interviews with Brown’s many friends and music partners, journalist Smith powerfully chronicles Brown’s rapid rise from his early days in Augusta, Ga., singing gospel through the pinnacle of his fame in the late 1960s and early 1970s to Brown’s sharp fall from grace in the 1990s with headline-grabbing arrests for domestic battery. Brown loved the spectacle of religion that the famous religious itinerant preacher, Daddy Grace, put on at the United House of Prayer in Augusta, and he learned rhythm from the house band there. Later, in his own shows, Brown got so caught up in the spectacle of entertaining that he became a force unto himself whose hungry passion and energy—expressed forcefully and fitfully through his trembling dancing and call-and response singing—transformed his audiences. Brown’s music still sounds so alive and continues to mystify because Brown brought others into a world he created that made his art a total experience. Through the pulsing rhythms of “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” the funky, hypnotic beat of “(Get on the) Good Foot,” and the Black Power anthem, “Say It Loud,” Brown, as Smith demonstrates, reshaped rhythm and blues, pumping it full of an energy that moved listeners to ecstasy. Smith’s compelling and detailed portrait of one of our greatest musicians reveals affectionately and honestly the reasons we jump up every time “I Feel Good” comes on the radio. (Mar.)
Stephen Davis

"Unh! Good God! RJ Smith has written a sex machine of a book and it''s called The One: The Life and Music of James Brown. Get up-get on up!"

The Boston Globe

"The One: The Life and Music of James Brown crackles with the same kind of exuberant energy that explodes out of grooves of one of the Godfather of Soul's classic sides."
Booklist

"This bio should be a cornerstone of soul-music-literature collections."

Atlanta Journal Constitution

One of the "Best New Books Around the South"

Los Angeles Magazine

“Smith never loses the beat.”

Rolling Stone

“The rhythm revolutionary who changed pop forever finally gets he bio he deserves...A biography as illuminating as it is definitive.” (4.5 Stars)
ELLE Magazine

"The late James Brown famously said, 'The one thing that can solve most of our problems is dancing.' Not your bag? Read The One (Gotham), RJ Smith’s supreme, sublime biography of the Godfather of Soul—son of the segregated South, social activist, go-for-broke businessman, self-professed thug—and you’ll get up offa that thing."
Smithsonian

“The imperatives of biography are to record, to correct and to carve out historical significance, and Smith’s lively account succeeds on all three fronts.”
New York Post

“Required Reading”
Philadelphia Inquirer

"RJ Smith's authoritative, keenly intelligent bio of one of the most protean of American musical giants."
The New York Times

"[A] showstopper...This book's sparkle speaks for itself."
The Christian Science Monitor

“R.J. Smith, a Los Angeles-based music journalist and author of the new book The One: The Life and Music of James Brown, may have come closer than anyone to understanding how James Brown became James Brown.”
Associated Press Staff

"Unflinching portrait of the conflicted and contradictory superstar...untangl[es] the psychological elements that came together to make James Brown, tracing his almost prescient ability to read audiences back to his days dancing for spare change from sailors and growing up in Georgia with a violent, unpredictable father.”
On Point

“Great telling of a really interesting man...captures the rhythm of the man”
Library Journal
James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, was an absolutely electrifying live performer most famous for his work in the 1960s and 1970s, cranking out hit after hit from "Please Please Please" to "I Got You (I Feel Good)." In this ambitious biography, Smith (The Great Black Way: L.A. in the 1940s and the Last African American Renaissance) covers Brown's rags-to-riches saga, from his hardscrabble youth to the sad events near the end of his life. In his heyday, he was perhaps the most popular African American artist with a positive message, "I'm Black and I'm Proud," which was an anthem during the civil rights era. In his personal life, Brown had many brushes with the law and struggled with substance abuse. Through it all, he recorded and toured endlessly and earned his reputation as the "hardest working man in show business." VERDICT Overall, this is a well-researched and well-written biography. It doesn't pull any punches and hits all the high and low points of Brown's remarkable life. Highly recommended for all soul music collections. [See Prepub Alert, 9/19/11.]—Bill Walker, Stockton-San Joaquin Cty. P.L., Stockton, CA
Al Sharpton
For years, writers have attempted to tell James's story and to dissect his complex and multilayered life. Either too naïve or just unaware of the nuances of societal challenges and cultural norms alike, they failed to fully grasp the depth of value that James and his music played in transforming American life as a whole. Going to great lengths researching and interviewing those closest to the music icon (myself included), Smith not only effortlessly highlights James's unmatched musical career, but also provides a well-studied historical context for the basis of his artistic expression…The One is the first of its kind to represent James as the social and cultural force he was, not just for black Americans but for all of America—in fact, all of the world.
—The New York Times Book Review
Chris Richards
…a superb new biography of a tireless entertainer who spent decades tightening his grip on the boundless energy he radiated. While investigating the hardest-working man in showbiz, Smith breaks a sweat of his own. This is a meticulously researched book that tracks Brown's childhood in the segregated South, his rise as a musical innovator, his tangled relationship with the Black Power movement, his connections to a handful of U.S. presidents and his golden years, tarnished by debts and drugs. Like Brown's music, Smith's writing is both airtight and full of life, conversational and reflective.
—The Washington Post
Janet Maslin
R J Smith does not have to explain why his big new biography of James Brown is such a showstopper. This book's sparkle speaks for itself, as does Mr. Smith's ability to take on his screaming, moaning, kinetically blessed, unbeatably shrewd subject…Some of these stories come from Mr. Brown's 1987 book, The Godfather of Soul, but Mr. Smith culls, shapes and amplifies them very well.
—The New York Times
From the Publisher
“The One is the first of its kind to represent James as the social and cultural force he was, not just for black Americans but for all of America—in fact, all of the world… I recommend reading [The One] for it will give you and unparalleled view into the man, the consummate entertainer, his music, and us as a nation.” — Al Sharpton, The New York Times Book Review

“I recommend reading [The One] for it will give you an unparalleled view into the man, the consummate entertainer, his music, and us as a nation.” —Reverand Al Sharpton, The New York Times Book Review

“A showstopper. This book’s sparkle speaks for itself, as does Mr. Smith’s ability to take on his screaming, moaning, kinetically blessed, unbeatably shrewd subject.” —Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“As illuminating as it is definitive.” —Rolling Stone, 4.5 stars

“[A] supreme, sublime biography.” —ELLE

“RJ Smith may have come closer than anyone to understanding how James Brown became James Brown.” —The Christian Science Monitor

“The imperatives of biography are to record, to correct, and to carve out historical significance, and Smith’s lively account succeeds on all three fronts.” —Smithsonian

"The One: The Life and Music of James Brown crackles with the same kind of exuberant energy that explodes out of grooves of one of the Godfather of Soul's classic sides." -The Boston Globe

“Top Spring Music Choice” and a “…compelling and detailed portrait of one of our greatest musicians… Smith’s compelling and detailed portrait of one of our greatest musicians reveals affectionately and honestly the reasons we jump up every time ‘I Feel Good’ comes on the radio.” -Publisher's Weekly

"This bio should be a cornerstone of soul-music-literature collections." -Booklist

“Smith never loses the beat.” -Los Angeles Magazine

“Required Reading.” -New York Post

"RJ Smith's authoritative, keenly intelligent bio of one of the most protean of American musical giants." -Philadelphia Inquirer

"Unflinching portrait of the conflicted and contradictory superstar...untangl[es] the psychological elements that came together to make James Brown, tracing his almost prescient ability to read audiences back to his days dancing for spare change from sailors and growing up in Georgia with a violent, unpredictable father.” -Associated Press

“Great telling of a really interesting man...captures the rhythm of the man” -On Point, WBUR

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781592406579
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/15/2012
Pages:
464
Product dimensions:
9.10(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.60(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“I recommend reading [The One] for it will give you an unparalleled view into the man, the consummate entertainer, his music, and us as a nation.” —Reverand Al Sharpton, The New York Times Book Review

“A showstopper. This book’s sparkle speaks for itself, as does Mr. Smith’s ability to take on his screaming, moaning, kinetically blessed, unbeatably shrewd subject.” —Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“As illuminating as it is definitive.” —Rolling Stone, 4.5 stars

“[A] supreme, sublime biography.” —ELLE

“RJ Smith may have come closer than anyone to understanding how James Brown became James Brown.” —The Christian Science Monitor

“The imperatives of biography are to record, to correct, and to carve out historical significance, and Smith’s lively account succeeds on all three fronts.” —Smithsonian

"The One: The Life and Music of James Brown crackles with the same kind of exuberant energy that explodes out of grooves of one of the Godfather of Soul's classic sides." -The Boston Globe

“Top Spring Music Choice” and a “…compelling and detailed portrait of one of our greatest musicians… Smith’s compelling and detailed portrait of one of our greatest musicians reveals affectionately and honestly the reasons we jump up every time ‘I Feel Good’ comes on the radio.” -Publisher's Weekly

"This bio should be a cornerstone of soul-music-literature collections." -Booklist

“Smith never loses the beat.” -Los Angeles Magazine

“Required Reading.” -New York Post

"RJ Smith's authoritative, keenly intelligent bio of one of the most protean of American musical giants." -Philadelphia Inquirer

"Unflinching portrait of the conflicted and contradictory superstar...untangl[es] the psychological elements that came together to make James Brown, tracing his almost prescient ability to read audiences back to his days dancing for spare change from sailors and growing up in Georgia with a violent, unpredictable father.” -Associated Press

“Great telling of a really interesting man...captures the rhythm of the man” -On Point, WBUR

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >