A horse drawn carriage will bear the late singer James Brown's body through Harlem Thursday morning to begin three days of wakes, remembrances and a funeral for the "Godfather of Soul".
"It's going to be a royal day in Harlem," the Rev. Al Sharpton, a close friend of Brown's for decades, said Wednesday night as he accompanied the music legend's body from Georgia to New York, where fans will begin paying their final tributes.
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 from Georgia was made necessary when logistical problems made it impossible to catch the last flight of the evening.
Harlem's legendary Apollo Theater prepared for long lines of people paying their respects at a public viewing of the body of 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.'"
Sharpton will deliver a short prayer and eulogy on Thursday evening. Afterward, the viewing will resume and Brown's body will make the journey back to his hometown of Augusta for his funeral.
The James Brown Band is expected to perform, said Frank Copsidas, Brown's professional manager.
A private ceremony will be held Friday in Augusta. On Saturday, a public viewing will be held at the 8,500-seat James Brown Arena before an evening public service also officiated by Sharpton.
Brown died of congestive heart failure in Atlanta on Christmas morning, aged 73.
Residents and city officials in Augusta on Wednesday recalled Brown fondly, saying his legacy will endure in their community.
His annual toy drive gave Christmas gifts to hundreds of needy children, and his yearly turkey giveaway provided more than 1,000 impoverished families with a Thanksgiving dinner.
"It's mindboggling to think about his impact on the world of music. But I think his legacy of giving in Augusta will continue to be giving for years to come," said Augusta's mayor, Deke Copenhaver. "He never forgot where he came from and he loved the city unconditionally."
Brown had been scheduled to perform on New Year's Eve in Manhattan at the B.B. King Blues Club.
Soul diva Chaka Khan will fill Brown's spot on New Year's Eve with a program commemorating his memory, said Rena Siwek, public relations director for the club.
James Brown's "legend will forever ring true within our halls and we vow to continue to celebrate his life and music in all upcoming performances," Siwek said, in an e-mail announcement.
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.
Apollo 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 also performed there.