For James Brown, a Funeral as Big as His Life

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On Saturday, the last in a series of funeral tributes to James Brown was held in Augusta, Ga. The event was filled with luminaries from the cultural world, including a surprise appearance by Michael Jackson.


The third and final funeral service for James Brown was no quiet, staid affair.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. DEREK MONK (Gospel Singer): (Singing) Put your hands together everybody, come on.

SEABROOK: This is gospel singer Derek Monk, making the crowd of more than 8,000 people sway, dance in the aisles and yell out loud. The James Brown Arena in Augusta, Georgia was packed with friends and family and fans of the Godfather of Soul. His oldest daughter, Deanna Brown, thanked them for the days of tribute to her father.

Ms. DEANNA BROWN (James Brown's Daughter): God had a Christmas birthday concert for Jesus on Christmas Day. And y'all know James Brown had the headline, right?

(Soundbite of applause)

Ms. BROWN: I bet that party was something else.

SEABROOK: The only person with James Brown when he died last week was Charles Bobbit, Brown's manager of more than 40 years. Bobbit told the story of Brown's last three breaths, as he slipped away to the Pearly Gates.

Mr. CHARLES BOBBIT (Brown's Manager): I can hear Mr. Brown. I see him in my mind's eye saying, St. Peter, love you like a brother. But see, I don't deal with no middleman. You got to take me to the main man.

(Soundbite of cheering)

SEABROOK: A surprise appearance by Michael Jackson got the crowd screaming at one point. Jackson called Brown his greatest inspiration.

Mr. MICHAEL JACKSON (Musician): Ever since I was a small child, no more than like six years old, my mother would wake me no matter what time it was - I was sleeping, no matter what I was doing - to watch the television to see the master at work. And when I saw him move, I was mesmerized. I've never seen a performer perform like James Brown. And right then and there, I knew that that was exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, because of James Brown.

SEABROOK: And the Reverend Al Sharpton, a personal friend of James Brown's, said the soul singer's legacy is much bigger than being a great musician and performer.

Reverend AL SHARPTON (Civil Rights Activist): So he sung his song and he danced his dance. But he wasn't just singing for himself. He sung for us. He danced for us. He screamed for us. Common people, working people, poor people. We didn't have a star till we had James Brown. James Brown wasn't smooth and wasn't acceptable. He wasn't tall and light skinned with good hair. He looked like us. And he made the whole world see how good we could be.

SEABROOK: After the funeral yesterday afternoon, James Brown was buried in a small, private service.

(Soundbite of song, "Say it Loud, I'm Black and Proud")

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