Thoughts on: The One by RJ Smith

March 26, 2012

The One: The Life and Music of James Brown by RJ Smith is a biographyof the Godfather of Soul. The title “The One” refers mainly to the artist’s emphasis on playing the right beat.

The pub­lisher is giv­ing away one copy of this book— use the form at the end of the post to enter.

  • 464 pages
  • Publisher:Gotham (March 15, 2012)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:1592406572

Book Review: The One: The Life and Music of James Brown by RJ Smith

My rating for The One – 5

Buy this book inpaperor electronicfor­mat
through the Man of la Book Affil­i­ate Account

More books by RJ Smith

The One: The Life and Music of James Brown by RJ Smith is a true testament that the nickname of “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business” is not an empty gesture. While I don’t think I’d like to have worked with Mr. Brown or even would have liked him personally, I can certainly appreciate and even admire his work ethic.

In this new biography, which digresses often but always stays on message, James Brown comes across as a demanding, violent, abusing and demanding man. However, this giant of music grew up in violent times; shaped by a segregated South in a rural community riddled with crime and poverty, which he never forgot and had had a hold on him.

When you’re a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
And James Brown was a hammer.

You cannot have a biography of James Brown without mentioning the Civil Rights movement. Mr. Brown saw “equality” his way and according to his philosophy, he always maintained that once he’d be looked upon as a man, instead of a black man, he’d never be equal.

Most of all, James Brown understood showmanship and control. In the video below one could tell how he plays with the crowd – and he does it all like he did everything in life, under his own terms.

“”I never thought they’d have a statue of you in Augusta– and facing a confederate marker!”
He touched [Al] Sharpton on the arm, saying, “And don’t forget what I told you- I did it on my own terms. I never conformed to Augusta; they had to conform to me”

The complex personality of this musical titan comes across through the pages. From brandishing a gun to resolve disputes to picking up young fans with his limousine or from profiling those who worked for and/or against Mr. Brown (yes… and) to a fabulous story of Mr. Brown coming home to the town he loved, Augusta, GA only to be stopped by a fan and then hoisting a sign to welcome the young man’s mother who was on the same flight (I think).

Race relations and civil rights are really the strong point in this book. Through the life of James Brown the reader gets a history of race relations in these United States. While Mr. Brown tried to stay away from the politics of race and could not be called a trailblazer by any means, he had the uncanny ability to pop up in significant moments. The rise from shoeshine boy to a world renowned superstar is well documented through those troubled time.

With a footnote section spanning 50 pages and an impressive list of interviews, Mr. Smith wrote an encompassing biography. While this book not make everyone happy, it certainly made me look at James Brown in a whole new way.

An integrated biography of James Brown with fascinating insights into the artist’s life, showmanship, business ventures and activism. With more than forty hits on the Billboard charts and playing 350 shows a year at his peak it is no wonder James Brown became an icon of American music and changed the industry.

Covering a life of a man whose eccentric childhood included taking soldiers to his aunt that ran a house of ill repute, to an adulthood which he managed to lose several fortunes, this biography is complicated, sincere and will make you feel a range of emotions.

Buy this book inpaperorelectronicfor­mat
through the Man of la Book Affil­i­ate Account

More books by RJ Smith


  • Give­away ends: April 02, 2012

  • US/Canada Ship­ping Addresses Only

  • No PO Boxes

  • Win­ners will have 24 hours to write back with their address, oth­er­wise an alter­nate win­ner will be picked


    TLC Book Tour forThe One:

    Tuesday, March 20th: Six String Theories
    Monday, March 26th: Man of La Book
    Wednesday, March 28th: Book Chase
    Sunday, April 1st:Black Grooves(monthly e-zine)
    Monday, April 2nd: A Bookish Affair
    Monday, April 9th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf

Zohar – Man of la Book
Dis­claimer: I got this book for free fromTLC Book Tours

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BOOK BLOGGERS – Have you read The One: The Life and Music of James Brown? If so link up your review below:

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  • Maegan MorinMarch 26, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    OMG!! This would be an amazing book to read! Thanks for the great giveaway!

    megnate at telus dot net

  • BethMarch 26, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    Looks great!

    bethsbookreviewblog2 AT gmail DOT com

  • LizMarch 26, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    Hitler was abused too. No excuse.

    • Zohar - Man of la BookMarch 26, 2012 at 8:44 pm

      I agree with you that abuse is no excuse, but the author makes it very clear on how James Brown saw the world.

      I won’t go there with Hitler 🙂

  • Barb KMarch 27, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    Sounds like a good read. A very interesting man James Brown.

  • RyanMarch 27, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    I love books about the early days of rock n’ roll and I’m a huge James Brown fan but I’ve never heard of this one. I’ll keep an eye out. In turn, you should check out an excellent book called Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom by Peter Guralnick

  • MarjorieMarch 28, 2012 at 8:46 am

    A very interesting story. A very interesting man.

  • Heather J. @ TLC Book ToursApril 1, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    I have to admit that I know very little about James Brown the man, though of course I am a fan of his music. Thanks for taking the time to read and review this one for the tour!

  • MarjorieApril 3, 2012 at 9:46 am

    Thank you so much for this win. I am thrilled to have won.

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