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Through McBride’s own insights as a black musician with Southern roots  Kill ’Em and Leave is a song unearthing and celebrating James Brown’s great legacy the cultural landscape of America todayPraise for Kill ’Em and Leave “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 “ 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 matchup 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 uest so very timely angry hilarious and as irresistible as any James Brown beat” Gerri Hirshey author of Nowhere to Run The Story of Soul Music “An unconventional and fascinating portrait of Soul Brother No 1 and the significance of his rise and fall in American culture” Kirkus Reviews. A very fitting title for this book The author James McBride had to make a trip to the American South to learn about one of the world s greatest entertainers from the people who actually knew him Because of James Brown s philosophy of kill em and leave I don t think the world ever got a chance to see the man outside of his genuis So McBride tries to bring to us a realistic view of the man which ends up being a sad story I enjoyed the format and the story telling this is not a typical biography of any sort There aren t a bunch of dates or important names being thrown at you but what you get are the people who actually meant something to the man

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Kill 'Em and Leave

National Book Award winner James McBride goes in search of the “real” James Brown after receiving a tip that promises to uncover the man behind the myth His surprising journey illuminates not only our understanding of this immensely troubled misunderstood and complicated soul genius but the ways in which our cultural heritage has been shaped by Brown’s legacy   Kill ’Em and Leave is than a book about James Brown Brown’s rough and tumble life through McBride’s lens is an unsettling metaphor for American life the tension between North and South black and white rich and poor McBride’s travels take him to forgotten corners of Brown’s never before revealed history the country town where Brown’s family and thousands of others were displaced by America’s largest nuclear power bomb making facility; a South Carolina field where a long forgotten cousin recounts in the dead of night a fuller history of Brown’s sharecropping childhood which until now has been a mystery McBride seeks out the American expat. It looks like McBride did his interviews for this book about music phenom James Brown in 2012 long before this book was published in 2016 In the Foreword McBride crankily reveals he was being taken to the cleaners in a divorce settlement and he needed to write this book any book to bring in a little money Any flaws this book contains then become perfectly understandable and McBride keeps up that level of honesty and casual explanation all the way through This is no stilted celebrity biography covering well trod ground This is down home and personal comfortable conversations with the men they were mostly men and women who knew most about James Brown and his life At the end of his story McBride highlights the 62 year old grandmother journalist Sue Summer who writing for the financially strapped Newberry Observer in South Carolina has kept in the public eye the disgraceful carnage made of James Brown s 100 million estate Brown s will stipulated the bulk of his estate should go to educate poor children in Georgia and South Carolina the states where he grew up but within days of his death on Christmas Day in 2006 his family had arrayed a bevy of lawyers to contest the will citing undue influence That influence would have been the South Carolina lawyer David Cannon who had been hired by Brown to extricate him from IRS charges of underpayments Cannon and Buddy Dallas a Georgia lawyer were white men who had never worked for a black boss before They brought Brown back from destitution when his act suffered the toll performers experience when they age and when the IRS realized they d been robbed They set up what they d thought was an unbreakable trust serving poor children and then suffered personal attacks and rake backs as the trust was contested James Brown played a role in McBride s youth in every young black man s youth is McBride s contention being a role model and human divinity of soul His concerts and records made a difference in how the world turned The 1960 s 70 s were the height of his popularity but he made a mark that lasted to his death and McBride argues will long after Kill em and leave Brown exhorted the younger men he mentored Don t hang around after a concert for folks to pick your carcass clean Make em waitMcBride spins his story out slowly the way he collected it through innumerable interviews with band members and managers friends and family He is conversational and not cruel when he tells us the plain facts of James Brown s lonely upbringing early incarceration exceptional singing talent and enormous drive Brown never wanted to be hungry or lonely or dependent ever again especially to the white man who he fearedThere was a moment near the end of McBride s story about Brown that widened out for me into a real down home truth we all learn eventually there s talent everywhere I remember having lunch years ago with a legendary record executive in LA bending his ear about a great unsigned singer I knew The guy listened nodded yawned reached for his triple decker sandwich and took a bite Great singers he said between chews are a dime a dozen That s right That s right for every field If they don t have em they ll make em But importantly and listen to this those executives they aren t so special either They do a job but somehow we ve allowed them to capture an unnatural percentage of the take They have nothing without the talent and the rest of the organization but you wouldn t know it talking to them But there is a truth in that it takes than talent to be a great star if that is where you are aiming It takes determination than talentBrown had determination He wanted to present his best side to the world so no one would have cause to put him down After shows he would sit through 3 hours of treatment under the hair dryer to get his pompadour back in shapeand then he would leave without seeing the fans waiting for him Kill em and leaveI loved the way McBride told this story mixing a little of himself in there He d gone to Columbia Journalism School in 1980 so was undoubtedly aware that the reporter should scrupulously keep himself out of the story But his ease with the scene and his knowledge of the backstory his understanding of the silences between uestions and his sense of the real meaning of James Brown gave us the mystery of the man and a deep sense of his place in pantheon of black culture I loved hearing the familiar names Rev Al Sharpton and Michael Jackson among them and seeing how they fit in this pictureIt s a comfortable unstrained telling of a difficult life built on success Race is everywhere in this book though it is rarely mentioned The fact of America s race situation both made James Brown who he was as a performer but it constrained him as a human being McBride gives us that shows us how that was A book by McBride is cause for celebration no matter that the editing was a little off or he repeated sections This is a story you won t want to miss

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Riate in England who co created the James Brown sound visits the trusted right hand manager who worked with Brown for forty one years and interviews Brown’s most influential nonmusical creation his “adopted son” the Reverend Al Sharpton He describes the stirring visit of Michael Jackson to the Augusta Georgia funeral home where the King of Pop sat up all night with the body of his musical godfather spends hours talking with Brown’s first wife and lays bare the Dickensian legal contest over James Brown’s estate a fight that has consumed careers; prevented any money from reaching the poor schoolchildren in Georgia and South Carolina as instructed in his will; cost Brown’s estate millions in legal fees; and left James Brown’s body to lie for than eight years in a gilded coffin in his daughter’s yard in South Carolina   James McBride is one of the most distinctive and electric literary voices in America today and part of the pleasure of his narrative is being in his presence coming to understand Brown. 35 starsSee me talk about this briefly in my May wrap up


10 thoughts on “Kill 'Em and Leave

  1. says:

    Kill ‘Em and Leave Searching for James Brown and the American Soul by James McBride is a 2016 Spiegel Grau publication I always liked James Brown His music his showmanship and the way he often found himself stepping in to keep the peace and his promotion of education While I know the same facts about James that anyone else knows I’ve never read any books or watched any movies based on his life So when thi

  2. says:

    It looks like McBride did his interviews for this book about music phenom James Brown in 2012 long before this book was published in 2016 In the

  3. says:

    This book is not a balanced unbiased chronological account of James Brown’s life and musical career It is however an impassioned sometimes meandering defense of a music legend and his complicated legacy which for my money makes it much interesting than a straightforward biographyJames McBride clearly has a lo

  4. says:

    35 starsSee

  5. says:

    First things first James McBride wrote an excellent excellent memoir called The Color of Water Go read itSecond don't expect

  6. says:

    James Brown was an excellent performer He was meticulous and methodical when it came to rehearsals It sounds like he deman

  7. says:

    National Book Award winner James McBride goes on a Citizen Kane like search for the real James Brown and muses about race identity music the northsouth divide and whether one can ever TRULY know someone With interviews with distant cousins ex wives life long childhood best friends former managers and accountants and former band members KILL 'EM AND LEAVE is a non chronological journey into James Brown that be

  8. says:

    Super fascinating could possibly have been a longform essay

  9. says:

    A very fitting title for this book The author James McBride had to make a trip to the American South to learn about one of the world's greatest entertainers from the people who actually knew him Because of James Brown's philosophy of kill 'em and leave I don't think the world ever got a chance to see the man outside of his genuis So McBride tries to bring to us a realistic view of the man which ends up being a sad story I enjoyed the for

  10. says:

    FANTASTIC BOOK Less a straight line music biography of Mr James Brown of a thoughtful attempt at understanding so