Body of late singer James Brown arrives at NYC's historic Apollo Theater for public tribute

By: Larry Neumeister, Associated Press
By: Larry Neumeister, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) - A white, horse-drawn carriage carried the body
of music legend James Brown through the streets of Harlem on
Thursday to the Apollo Theater, where a sea of people waited to say
farewell to the "Godfather of Soul."

Friends and fans walked behind the caisson in the street,
singing the chorus of Brown's anthem, "Say it Loud - I'm Black and
I'm Proud."

Just like when Brown was alive, the raucous throng of thousands
cheered and applauded as pallbearers lifted his gold casket and
carried it inside, for Brown, who died of heart failure Christmas
morning, to lie in repose on the stage where he made his 1956
debut.

As New Yorker Norman Brand waited for the procession to arrive,
the 55-year-old recalled hearing Brown's anthem for the first time
in his native Alabama.

"It really changed the attitude of most black people. It was
like a wake up call. Before that, if you were called black, it was
like an insult," Brand said. "Just one song and one word can
change a whole situation."

The Rev. Al Sharpton, Brown's close friend, raced through the
night in a van with the late singer's casket, arriving in New York
about three hours late a day after leaving Georgia, where the
73-year-old singer died. Logistical problems had made it impossible
to catch a flight, he said.

"He was a superstar for common people, and I wanted to make
sure that common people got to see him one last time," Sharpton
said late Wednesday. "It's going to be a royal day in Harlem."

As the carriage rolled toward the Apollo shortly after noon on
Thursday, Sharpton walked behind it.

A private ceremony was planned for Brown at a church near
Augusta, Ga., his boyhood hometown, and another public viewing was
scheduled Saturday at Augusta's James Brown Arena.
Outside the Apollo, fans began lining up shortly after midnight
for the chance to say goodbye to a man whose hits like "Papa's Got
a Brand New Bag" and "I Got You (I Feel Good)" left an indelible
mark on soul, R&B, funk, disco and rap music.

The Apollo became famous for launching the careers of performers
such as Brown, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald,
and as a showcase for superstars Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin,
Diana Ross and a young Michael Jackson.

It had been used for public viewings several times before, but
always for employees.

On Thursday, the marquee outside read: "Rest in Peace Apollo
Legend The Godfather of Soul James Brown, 1933-2006," and Brown's
epic "Live at the Apollo" album streamed from the marquee
speakers.

"He seemed like family, a friend of mine," said New Yorker
Brenda Harper, who was the first to arrive at the Apollo early
Thursday.

She recalled seeing Brown in concert 14 years earlier. "I
jumped on the stage and he danced with me. I danced with the
'Godfather' that day," she said.

Edith Stewart flew to New York from Atlanta for the Apollo
Theater viewing.

"I loved James Brown. He did a lot of things for people all
over. Just a couple of days ago, in Augusta, he was passing out
gifts. And then he's gone," she said.

Brown continued to work to the end, dying less than a week
before he was to perform New Year's Eve in Manhattan at B.B. King's
blues club. Chaka Khan, the Grammy Award-winning rhythm and blues
performer, will play instead.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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