Kill 'Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul
Publisher: Random House (Audio)
Date: April 2016
Duration: 9 hours 0 minutes
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 Browns legacy.
Kill Em and Leave is more than a book about James Brown. Browns rough-and-tumble life, through McBrides lens, is an unsettling metaphor for American life: the tension between North and South, black and white, rich and poor. McBrides travels take him to forgotten corners of Browns never-before-revealed history: the country town where Browns family and thousands of others were displaced by Americas 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 Browns sharecropping childhood, which until now has been a mystery. McBride seeks out the American expatriate 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 Browns 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 Browns first wife, and lays bare the Dickensian legal contest over James Browns 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 Browns estate millions in legal fees; and left James Browns body to lie for more than eight years in a gilded coffin in his daughters 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 through McBrides own insights as a black musician with Southern roots. Kill Em and Leave is a song unearthing and celebrating James Browns great legacy: the cultural landscape of America today.
Praise 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 weve 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." - 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
From the Hardcover edition.