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Friday, December 29, 2006

A proper sendoff


(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

James Brown going home to the Apoll0

A Loud, Proud Send-Off for an Icon of Soul

By MANNY FERNANDEZ
Published: December 29, 2006

James Brown gave one last show in Harlem yesterday, three days after his death, in a golden coffin lined with white velvet, on the flower-bedecked stage of the famed Apollo Theater, before a crowd of thousands who had lined up for blocks to see him.

Thousands of fans and mourners — some singing and dancing, some crying and praying — gathered at the Apollo Theater in Harlem to pay respects to James Brown.

A white carriage drawn by two white Percheron horses carried the Brown's coffin to the Apollo Theater.

Mr. Brown’s body arrived beneath the Apollo’s red-neon sign just before 1 p.m. in a white-painted carriage pulled by two white horses with feathery plumes atop their heads. The carriage was small, with tall windows and white curtains with silver fringe. Two solemn men sat atop it, guiding the horses, and Mr. Brown’s friends and associates and Harlem dignitaries walked alongside and behind it.

Hundreds who lined 125th Street outside the theater on a chilly, overcast afternoon cheered and applauded. Helicopters hovered. Photographers aimed their cameras from the surrounding rooftops. A guy hawked commemorative T-shirts for $10. Mr. Brown’s cries and exultations filled the street, blaring from one of his concert videos playing on a beat-up television mounted above a sign for Uptown Tattoos. A chant rose up: “James Brown! James Brown! James Brown!”

When the theater’s doors finally opened, people began streaming in for a public viewing. They walked up a few stairs and stepped onto the red-carpeted stage, where Mr. Brown’s body lay in an open coffin, washed in white and gold stage lights. The coffin was made of 16-gauge steel with a gold paint finish. Mr. Brown was wearing a cobalt, sequined satin suit with white gloves and pointed silvery shoes. Loudspeakers played his breakthrough album, “Live at the Apollo,” recorded Oct. 24, 1962.

Women wearing veils approached. A man in a suit dropped to his knees and crossed his heart. One couple broke into a brief dance. “Right now,” Mr. Brown said on the loudspeakers, in a snippet of between-song banter, “I’m going to get up and do my thing.”

Mr. Brown did his thing yesterday: he put on a show. Throughout the day, thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, formed two lines on 125th Street outside the Apollo, one to its east and one to its west, each one filling up 125th Street, reaching the corner and then stretching for blocks up Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and Frederick Douglass Boulevard, forming a giant U. Some had been waiting since midnight Wednesday.

“We’re sending him out in the style he lived,” said Nellie Williams, 58, of Greer, S.C., who stood near the front of one line. “He was a man that had to be seen and heard.” She brought her daughter, and a copy of an oil painting her brother did of Mr. Brown, his pompadour perfectly teased, his shirt open, his smile wide. “I want to show my last respects for his last show in New York,” Ms. Williams added.

Mr. Brown, 73, died of congestive heart failure early Monday in Atlanta. He was remembered, during a private ceremony for family and friends at the Apollo, and amid the lines of fans standing outside for the public viewing, as a singer, dancer, bandleader, funk pioneer, entrepreneur, black-pride icon and entertainer who many said transformed American pop music and African-American culture.


They closed the doors at 9:30 and had to turn people away. Thousands of people viewed the body.

He was beloved, despite his antics, the drugs, the wives. No words meant more to Harlem than James Brown live at the Apollo.

posted by Steve @ 2:23:00 AM

2:23:00 AM

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