James Brown’s last interview
James Brown, 73, was born in South Carolina and raised in a brothel in Georgia. As a teenager he was jailed for theft. After release from prison, he joined a group called The Gospel Starlighters which soon became The Famous Flames. In 1956 the band released their first single Please, Please, Please which charted at number 5 and sold a million copies. In the early sixties Brown recruited a band of regular musicians and began breaking box office records at major black venues throughout the US. His 1968 single, Say It Out Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud, became an anthem for the civil rights movement. Brown went on to become one of the most influential figures in 20th century popular music and called himself The Godfather of Soul. His string of hits included I Got You (I Feel Good), It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World, Sex Machine and the Grammy award winning records Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag and Living in America. In 1987 his career was suspended, after he was imprisoned following a drug-fuelled incident in which he brandished a shotgun and failed to stop for police. Released in 1991, he assembled another band and lived up to his reputation as the hardest working man in show business. Brown received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992, a Kennedy Center Honour in 2003 and, in November 2006, he was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame. On Christmas Day the same year, he died after a sudden bout of pneumonia. He is outlived by his fourth wife, Tomie Rae Hynie, their son and at least three other children.
1. When were you happiest?
Well I was happy, I guess, the day I got the chance to cut my first record, Please, Please, Please.
3. What is your earliest memory?
When I cut Please Please Please.
4. Which living person do you most admire and why?
My wife Tomie Rae, next is my baby boy James Brown the Second.
5. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I don’t like the fact that I work so hard trying to get this stuff across and not everybody’s eating it up fifty years later… but, I thank God.
7. What was your most embarrassing moment?
I guess my most embarrassing moment was many years ago when I was at school. The girls liked me so much and my teacher took my pocket book – and I only had two dollars in there – and she said, “Why do you all like him so much, he’s only got two dollars!”
9. What is your most treasured possession?
My love and my spirit for God.
10. Where would you like to live?
Where I am living, that’s in America in South Carolina bordering Georgia. I am known as a Georgialina, because I live in one and was raised in the other one
12. What makes you depressed?
Whenever I hear the music not going the way I think it should. We are raising these children and we’ve got to give them something solid to come up on, and we are not getting to them yet.
13. What do you most dislike about your appearance?
Whatever God’s given me, I appreciate it.
15. Who would play you in the film of your life?
16. What is your most unappealing habit?
I guess concentrating and day dreaming on things I’d like to see happen.
17. What is your favourite smell?
18. What is your favourite word?
19. What is your favourite book?
I don’t read that much, but I do like the James Brown life story
20. What is your fancy dress costume of choice?
I’ll pass on that one.
21. What is the worst thing anyone’s ever said to you?
I took a hiatus one time. My mother told me that I couldn’t come back into the system because I stopped singing gospel, and I proved that I could come back. She didn’t understand what was in my head.
23. Is it better to give or to receive?
It’s better to give than receive, yes.
25. What do you owe your parents?
I love my parents, period. I dislike the fact that they broke up – I come from a broken home – but I still love them. I owe my parents my life, my genes and I hope my future will prove that they were better than I thought they were.
27. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My spirit and my music.
45. What song would you like played at your funeral?
Whatever they think makes sense.
46. How would you like to be remembered?
I’d like to be remembered as a man who wanted to help somebody and help the young people. I want to make things better all the time.
26. Is there anyone you’d like to say sorry to?
No, but there is one thing I would like to say and that is, “I’m going to leave,” because I thought there were only going to be like four or five questions. Thank you ma’am.