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Brown's Body En Route to Apollo Theater

Brown's Body En Route to Apollo Theater

The body of James Brown was en route from Georgia late Wednesday for a final trip to Harlem's Apollo Theater and a historic public viewing of the soul singer, whose innovative music and ferocious energy touched the world for 50 years. A horse-drawn carriage waited to take Brown's body through Harlem on Thursday morning at the start of three days of wakes, remembrances and a funeral of the kind normally reserved for royalty.
"It's going to be a royal day in Harlem," the Rev. Al Sharpton, Brown's close friend, said by cell phone Wednesday as he accompanied the singer's casket in a van.
He promised "the kind of homecoming we haven't seen in a long time, if ever, in the Harlem community."
Sharpton said the road trip was made necessary when logistical problems made it impossible to catch the last flight of the evening.
"We're determined to make sure he makes the Apollo," Sharpton said around 9:30 p.m., shortly after the approximately 12-hour trip began from a Georgia funeral parlor. "He never missed the Apollo. If we ride all night, that's fine."
The Apollo Theater prepared for long lines of people paying their respects to Brown, whose unique style of soul and funk left a large imprint on hip-hop, disco and rap music.
Brown loved that people would line up outside the Apollo for his shows, Sharpton said.
"Every time he played the Apollo, he'd say, `How many people outside?'" Sharpton recalled. "I'd say: `It's around the corner. It's two blocks.' ... My dream is that I can say, `Mr. Brown, they were lined up for you one last time.'"
Brown will lie in repose from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday on the stage where he made his debut in 1956, the quiet of final respects broken only by the sound of his music. From 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., there will be a program for family and close friends, observed by the media.
Apollo historian Billy Mitchell said Brown, who died of congestive heart failure on Christmas morning in Atlanta at age 73, routinely drew the largest crowds of anyone at the theater, which opened in 1934.
The Apollo several times before has been used for a public viewing after a prominent death but always for employees. In August 1992, the theater provided a last chance to honor Ralph Cooper, who founded Amateur Night, the weekly talent contest that launched the careers of Brown, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald, among scores of others.
The Apollo also was a showcase for superstars including Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and Michael Jackson, who was 9 when he performed with his brothers for the first time at the storied hall.
Final arrangements for Brown's viewing came as the hall readied itself for Wednesday night's final 2006 Amateur Night at the Apollo contest.
A high-tech marquee at the Apollo offered: "Rest in Peace Apollo Legend The Godfather of Soul James Brown, 1933-2006." Brown's epic "Live at the Apollo" album streamed from the marquee speakers.
Manhattan resident Olive Conteh-Martyn stopped by the Apollo on Wednesday to pay tribute to Brown, a man who was so adored when she was a teenager in Sierra Leone, in West Africa, that children tried to emulate his dance moves.
"We idolized him," she said. "I love his music."
A man taped flowers and pictures of Brown on a wall next to the Apollo. Less than a block away, a merchant showed videos of Brown's live performances on a television outside.
West Webb nodded his head to the beat, saying he'd view Brown's body Thursday "if I can get in."
He added: "Brown was as fast as lightning! He was one of a kind."
Barry Hammonds, a fitness club owner, said he was a three-time winner of Amateur Night in the 1990s and once met Brown.
"He said to me, `If this is what you want to do, just be real with the audience and continue to work,'" Hammonds recalled.
Brown continued to work to the end, dying less than a week before he was to perform New Year's Eve in Manhattan at B.B. King's blues club. Chaka Khan, the Grammy Award-winning rhythm and blues performer, will play instead.


Updated : 2021-05-13 01:22 GMT+08:00