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Farewell Tour for James Brown Ends

Farewell Tour for James Brown Ends

At a gathering marked by joy more than sorrow, thousands of James Brown's fans and friends filled an arena bearing his name Saturday for their final tribute to the homegrown singer known as the godfather of soul.
The farewell tour for Brown _ loved in Augusta as much for his generosity and influence as for his music _ wound down with an afternoon funeral, two days after a boisterous viewing in the famed Apollo Theater in New York.
Michael Jackson was among the more than 8,500 fans who packed James Brown Arena, where Brown lay in front of the bandstand in his third outfit in three days _ a black jacket and gloves, red shirt and sequined shoes.
As the service began shortly after 1 p.m., friends and relatives filed past the casket. The procession was followed by a video of Brown's last performance in Augusta and his final concert in London _ where he performed a slow, soulful version of Ray Charles' "Georgia On My Mind."
Jackson, whose arrival sparked a roar from the crowd, stood before the casket and shared a hug with the Rev. Al Sharpton just as Brown's latest backup band, the Soul Generals, started to play.
Fans had started lining up in the rain before dawn. Many gathered on the streets outside to listen to the service over a public address system.
Brown died of heart failure on Christmas morning in Atlanta while hospitalized for treatment of pneumonia. He was 73.
Saturday's public funeral was the third memorial event held in as many days for Brown, whose hits like "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" inspired generations of soul, funk, disco, rock and rap artists.
"When I was little, our family tradition during the holiday was young folks would do their routine _ I was always James Brown," said Richard Clayton, one of about 20 Atlantans who headed to Augusta on a bus early Saturday.
For Maynard Eaton, who helped organize the bus group, Brown was a political figure above all.
"'I'm black and I'm proud' was the most influential black slogan of the 1960s," he said, referring to the chorus of the Brown standard "Say It Loud."
On Friday, in a small brick church in nearby North Augusta, S.C., about 300 family members and close friends _ including boxing promoter Don King and comedian Dick Gregory _ heard Sharpton deliver the eulogy at a 90-minute service.
"When he started singing, we were sitting in the back of the bus. When he stopped singing we were flying Lear jets," said Sharpton, who toured with Brown in the 1970s and remained a close friend.
A day earlier, thousands of fans poured into the Apollo in Harlem for a sometimes raucous celebration of Brown at the venue where one of his trademark high-energy concerts launched him into the international spotlight in 1956.
"He was a God-sent person _ almost like an angel," said Vickie Greene, who said she saw her first Brown show more than 30 years ago. "He was so inspirational to people about sharing and helping and giving."
Even when he became an international superstar, Brown considered Augusta his home. It was a place for highs, like his annual tradition of handing out Thanksgiving turkeys to needy families, and lows _ such as the drug-fueled police chase that landed him a 15-month stint in prison.
Brown was born in Barnwell, S.C., in 1933 and spent much of his childhood in Augusta singing and dancing for change on street corners. At times, he committed petty crimes that landed him in reform school.
Far from the typical low promise of a youth spent in what he once described as an "ill-repute" area of the city, Brown's mark on his hometown was indelible.
Three days before his death, Brown hosted his annual Christmas toy drive for needy children.
The city named a street James Brown Boulevard a decade ago and last year erected a statue of him in a downtown park. Earlier this year, the city's main auditorium was named in his honor.


Updated : 2020-12-04 01:16 GMT+08:00