"Lemme tell you something, Rev. When you kill 'em, Rev, you leave. You kill 'em and leave. You understand that, son? Kill 'em and leave."-James Brown speaking to Al Sharpton
James Brown's contributions to R&B, soul, and rock are incalculable; if that's not enough, he pretty much invented a whole genre: funk. While his songs continue to be part of the pop culture landscape and there was a recent film about him, he's a misunderstood, even tragic figure, something that this incisive new book from author James McBride ("The Good Lord Bird") makes clear. It's less a typical biography, which is refreshing, and more an investigation (or search for, as the subtitle indicates) of Brown and soul music. Born into crushing poverty in the South, Brown served time as a juvenile before finding music and joining the Famous Flames, with whom he'd make his first recordings. McBride's a musician so devotes more time than many biographers to the technical aspects of Brown's music and gives special consideration to the crack musicians he surrounded himself with, particularly horn players Fred Wesley and Pee Wee Ellis. The book is part the personal and musical triumphs of an icon, but also the trails of being a black man and Brown's personal problems, which included an often tense relationship with his band, a long series of wives and girlfriends, and a shifting musical landscape. When he died, he was a diminished figure, even though he's the most sampled artist of all time. As of this writing, his considerable estate is still being fought over. It's a great book about a great artist and anyone who cares about music should read it. Hit me.