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Fans Await 'Godfather of Soul' at Apollo

Fans Await 'Godfather of Soul' at Apollo

Fans of the late "Godfather of Soul" began lining up outside Harlem's Apollo Theater early Thursday to pay their last respects as James Brown's body was driven from Georgia for his last date on the historic stage.
A horse-drawn carriage waited to take Brown's casket through the streets of Harlem to the theater to begin three days of wakes, remembrances and a funeral of the kind normally reserved for royalty.
"He made black people feel proud to be black and enjoy our roots. When we had nothing else to look forward to or look up to, we always had our music," Amino Hyman told CW 11 television as he waited outside the theater before dawn. "James Brown was definitely one of the ones that empowered us."
The Rev. Al Sharpton, Brown's close friend, raced through the night in a van with the casket to make sure the late singer did not miss his date.
"He was a superstar for common people, and I wanted to make sure that common people got to see him one last time," Sharpton told The Associated Press shortly after 9 p.m. Wednesday, at the start of his journey from Georgia to New York.
"It's going to be a royal day in Harlem," Sharpton said. 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 necessary because logistical problems had made it impossible to catch the last flight of the evening.
"We're determined to make sure he makes the Apollo," Sharpton said. "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 it when people lined up outside the Apollo for his shows, Sharpton said.
"His eyes would get wide. He'd smile," Sharpton said. "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 1956 debut, with the quiet of final respects broken only by the sound of his music. There will be a program for family and close friends at 6 p.m.
Brown died of congestive heart failure on Christmas morning in Atlanta. He was 73.
Apollo historian Billy Mitchell said Brown routinely drew the largest crowds of anyone at the theater, which opened in 1934.
The Apollo has been used for public viewings several times before, 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 such superstars as Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and Michael Jackson, who was 9 when he and his brothers first performed there.
Final arrangements for Brown's viewing came as the storied 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. She recalled children trying to emulate his dance moves when she was a teenager in Sierra Leone, in West Africa.
"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."
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 : 2020-12-04 17:07 GMT+08:00