James Brown's Body to Lie at Apollo
Dec 26 6:50 PM US/Eastern
By LARRY NEUMEISTER
Associated Press Writer
The body of soul singer James Brown will be returned Thursday to the site of his debut _ the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem _ so the public that saw and heard him leave a lasting impression on music can see him one last time, the Rev. Al Sharpton said Tuesday.
Brown's body will rest on the stage of the Apollo from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., and thousands of people will be permitted one more look at a man who steered modern music toward the rhythm-and-blues, funk, hip-hop, disco and rap beats popular today, said Sharpton, a close friend of Brown for decades.
"It would almost be unthinkable for a man who lived such a sensational life to go away quietly," Sharpton told The Associated Press in an interview from Georgia, where he was making funeral arrangements with Brown's children.
Sharpton said he and the children viewed Brown's body Tuesday.
"I looked at his body. I was walking in half disbelief and sadness but proud," he said. "I couldn't even begin to describe it, to walk around his house and he not be there."
Sharpton said the public Apollo viewing will be followed by a private ceremony Friday in Brown's hometown, Augusta, Ga., and another public ceremony, officiated by Sharpton, a day later at the James Brown Arena there.
"His greatest thrill was always the lines around the Apollo Theater," Sharpton said of the 125th Street landmark. "I felt that James Brown in all the years we talked would have wanted one last opportunity to let the people say goodbye to him and he to the people."
Brown, known as the Godfather of Soul, died of congestive heart failure on Christmas morning in Atlanta at age 73. He had been scheduled to perform on New Year's Eve in Manhattan at B.B. King's blues club.
Sharpton said he and Brown's children talked Tuesday about the moment after the Rev. Martin Luther King's assassination when Brown stepped to a microphone and told gathering crowds of angry people to go home.
"And they went home," Sharpton said. "For them to riot for a man who lived a life of peace would send the wrong message. He always said he was surprised and humbled that he had that influence."
Sharpton said Brown was "always very sensitive as to how people could be remembered."
The Apollo began recruiting and showcasing talent in 1934. Early acts included "Pigmeat" Markham and Jackie "Moms" Mabley. Before long, Lena Horne, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Aretha Franklin and Brown were making their debuts. Audiences cheered the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Michael Jackson, Fats Waller, Fats Domino, Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, Sammy Davis Jr. and Nina Simone. Comedians such as Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor performed, too.
Sharpton said he had been like a son to Brown since they met in 1973, introduced by Brown's son, Teddy, shortly before the teenager died in a car crash.
He said the son had wanted to encourage his father's support for Sharpton's youth organization, leading Brown to begin a lifelong commitment to Sharpton's civil-rights projects.
"I became the son he lost," Sharpton said.
Sharpton said Brown always knew his place in history.
"He used to tell me, `There are two American originals, Elvis and me,'" Sharpton said. "'Elvis is gone, and I've got to carry on.'"
AP Writer Harry R. Weber in Atlanta contributed to this story.