Through words and recollections, the spirit of James Brown was resurrected Monday evening as local fans came to Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse to learn more about a new biography penned by the famed singer's son.
Musician turned author Daryl Brown came to La Cañada to sign copies of "Inside the Godfather," a tell-all book featuring interviews with his father's closest friends and associates, and to set the record straight about the life, death and legacy of James Brown.
"Y'all can ask me any questions you want to ask me," he told the small crowd. "If there's a question you want to ask James Brown, you can ask me. I can guarantee you it is in this book. This is a testimony."
Several musicians and James Brown fans, including Charles Connor, a drummer in Little Richard's band, turned out for the event. Pasadena resident Elaine Wrice said she came to learn more about the man she attributed as the musical background of her childhood.
"I wanted to get as close to the Godfather of Soul as I could, so this is it," Wrice said. "Because life isn't the same without James."
Many who showed up, like La Cañada's Sharon Dooner, were inspired to learn more about James Brown's life and work after seeing director Tate Taylor's biopic film "Get on Up," released Aug. 1. That film aimed to capture the singer's rags-to-riches story.
"I just saw the movie, and I thought, 'I want to hear more,'" Dooner said before the discussion.
In an extended Q&A session, Dooner, like others, asked about the accuracy of the film and the portrayal of certain characters and family members. Refusing to speak out against the film directly, Daryl Brown offered a somewhat evasive response.
"What movie?" he joked before adding, "I haven't seen the movie. Seriously, I haven't seen it."
Throughout the intimate discussion, audience members learned about the loneliness and destitution that defined James Brown's early years as he was left by mom Susie in the custody of absent and alcoholic father Joseph Brown.
"That's why James Brown had so much drive — he didn't want to go back to that," his son said.
Daryl Brown recounted highlights from his father's meteoric rise to fame and influence, framed by an intense commitment to work, a passion for dancing and one heck of an ear. He shared stories about working for his father, shining shoes, washing cars and hanging sweaty outfits out to dry, and later playing in his father's band.
Monday's talk was also interspersed with lesser known facts about the singer — that he was born with a caul, was intensely afraid of the dark and began his musical career as a drummer in his teens.
That last fact was especially intriguing to La Cañada resident Mark Bernhard, who himself learned to drum listening to James Brown's funky beats.
Bernard recalled seeing James Brown perform live at Phoenix's Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in the late 1960s.
"All I could do was look at his feet moving and hear his voice. He was mesmerizing," Bernhard said.
Recalling his father as a real humanitarian, who used his influence to dispel riots in the late'60s, Daryl Brown acknowledged the lasting power of James Brown's legacy.
"There's a little bit of James Brown in all of us, and there's a little bit of us in James Brown—that's what makes him so great," he said.