A Man's Man's Man's Funeral

Except for Al Sharpton's shameless hogging of the spotlight, James Brown's funeral was quite a production. Televised live on NY1 (New York One), the local cable news channel, this extravaganza was held in the James Brown Arena in Augusta, Georgia.

It's very safe to say that there's never been a funeral quite like this one. With Bootsy Collins decked out in a gold hat—which for Bootsy probably qualifies as mourning clothes—and JB all–stars like Fred Wesley on stage, this was a show in the largest sense of the word. It funked so hard Brown would undoubtedly have been pleased! And it all happened on a stage just above an open casket containing the man himself.

Sharpton, who obviously ran the entire show, actually got off the day's most humorous moment when he said, referring to the chaotic day this week when Brown's body lay in state at Harlem's Apollo Theater, that he was sure Brown was up in heaven telling Ray Charles, "I had them lined up around the block at the Apollo for me, I swear."

One sad sidelight was Brown's fourth wife Tomi Rae Hynie who was for the most part shut out of the proceedings, except for a rendition of Sam and Dave's "Hold On! I'm Comin' which is the same tune she was featured on when I saw him at B.B. King's earlier this year. She has a five year old son by Brown so she'll likley be in for a cut of his estate. And now that he's passed, James Brown's money problems are over. The larger–in–death–than– he–was–in–life phenomenon is about to kick in. That sound you hear in the background are the download servers and CD pressing machines at Mercury Records running overtime.

Another interesting tidbit was his son Darryl, saying he and the band were going to carry on his father's legacy. It'll be interesting to see if anyone will pay to see the band without James Brown. While the Duke Ellington Band has been able to muddle through in some form to this very day, it's appeal never rested on a creative dynamo like James Brown.

Most intriguing of all was the presence of Michael Jackson. Prince's name was evoked several times but apparently he was not in attendance.

Jackson actually spoke a few coherent, heartfelt sentences. Unfortunately, Michael being along with Prince one of only two performers who could actually stay with James Brown in terms of energy and ability, refused to get up and sing with the band on "Sex Machine." To be fair, it's been a long time since Michael's gotten even remotely funky. And even back when he did, Brown's brand of grit wasn't really Michael's kind of thing anyway. His brand of soul was always several degrees cooler than Browns. But give him credit: he did show and he did get on stage. I do wonder though what was on his head? Was that a wig or real hair made silly lustrous by over application of too much hair care product?

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