'A formidable free-style book that isn't straight biography but a mix of history, street-level investigative reporting, hagiography, Deep South sociology, music criticism, memoir and some fiery preaching' Rolling Stone magazine A Guardian best music book of 2016 The music of James Brown was almost a genre in its own right, and he was one of the biggest and most influential cultural figures of the twentieth century. But the singer known as the 'Hardest Working Man in Show Business' was also an immensely troubled, misunderstood and complicated man. Award-winning writer James McBride, himself a professional musician, has undertaken a journey of discovery in search of the 'real' James Brown, delving into the heartbreaking saga of Brown's childhood and destroyed estate, and uncovering the hidden history of Brown's early years.
'Unlike most biographers of such heroes of black music, McBride writes from inside the culture, loosely entwining his own story with that of his subject. There is bitterness here as well as celebration ... This is not the smoothest or most comprehensive of biographies. But it has soul, and in this case that counts for more' -- Richard Williams Guardian, the best music books of 2016 'The definitive look at one of the greatest, most important entertainers, The Godfather, Da Number One Soul Brother, Mr Please, Please Himself - James Brown' -- Spike Lee 'The author pursues the truth about the godfather of soul, revealing details of his mysterious childhood and his personal influence on everyone from Al Sharpton to Michael Jackson' TIME magazine, the top 10 nonfiction books of 2016 'The astonishing tangle of greatness and mayhem that was James Brown is embedded in this book. Honestly, it's not a musical biography. It's more than that. It conjures not just the man but the groove itself' -- David Simon award-winning creator of The Wire 'A formidable free-style book that isn't straight biography but a mix of history, street-level investigative reporting, hagiography, Deep South sociology, music criticism, memoir and some fiery preaching. McBride is a National Book Award-winning author and jazz saxophonist who thinks deeply about race and art ... Especially rich are McBride's profiles of Brown's family and intimates ... Ultimately, McBride tells a story of a musician who not only changed pop worldwide but who was an icon of black self determination - a man whose fight against America's racist heritage defined his life and, remarkably, his death' Rolling Stone magazine '[A] thoughtful and probing work ... when McBride digs in, especially when describing the music - that massive, unstoppable, titanic, world-shaking accomplishment - by virtue of his own training as a saxophonist, he does so with great warmth, insight and frequent wit ... James McBride's welcome elucidation of these points is clear, deeply felt and unmistakable' New York Times Book Review 'The author of the best-selling memoir The Color of Water and the National Book Award-winning novel The Good Lord Bird turns out to also be the biographer of James Brown we've all been waiting for ... McBride's true subject is race and poverty in a country that doesn't want to hear about it, unless compelled by a voice that demands to be heard' New York magazine 'Please, please, please: can anybody tell us who and what was James Brown? At last, the real deal: James McBride on James Brown is the match-up we've been waiting for, a musician who came up hard in Brooklyn with JB hooks lodged in his brain, a monster ear for the truth, and the chops to write it. This is no celeb bio but a compelling personal quest - so very timely, angry, hilarious, and as irresistible as any James Brown beat ... Read it, and your brain won't sit still' -- Gerri Hirshey author of Nowhere to Run: The Story of Soul Music 'National Book Award winner McBride dissects the career, legacy, and myth of the Godfather of Soul. One of the most iconic figures in pop music, James Brown is also one of the most unknown and falsely represented figures in American cultural history ... An unconventional and fascinating portrait of Soul Brother No. 1 and the significance of his rise and fall in American culture' Kirkus Reviews 'McBride, who is a musician as well as the award-winning author of The Color of Water and The Good Lord Bird, is the perfect biographer for Brown, finding universal American themes in the musician's life story: the divide between the North and South, rich and poor, and black and white. McBride also delves into the legal battles over Brown's estate, a subject that sounds so complicated and epic that it could probably warrant its own book' -- themillions.com
James McBride is the author of the National Book Award winner and New York Times bestseller The Good Lord Bird, the bestselling novels Song Yet Sung and Miracle at St Anna, and the No. 1 New York Times bestseller The Color of Water, which has sold more than two million copies. He is also a saxophonist and composer who teaches music to children in the Red Hook Brooklyn housing projects, where he was born, and a professor of journalism at NYU.