It was only fitting that James Brown’s funeral turned into a concert Saturday afternoon (December 30) as he was laid to rest in his hometown of Augusta, Georgia.
More than 8,000 people — Brown’s family, friends and fans — watched from the floor of James Brown Arena as the singer’s celebrity friends including Michael Jackson, MC Hammer and Bootsy Collins gave tribute onstage at the public “homegoing” service for the singer, who died of congestive heart failure early Monday morning (see ” ’Godfather Of Soul’ James Brown Dead At 73″ ).
Although Reverend Al Sharpton — who said the iconic musician was like a father to him — gave a stirring sermon, the “Godfather of Soul” was best remembered at the ceremony through his songs.
A videotape of one of Brown’s concerts — where he performed selections including “Georgia on My Mind” — was played. Later in the service, Brown’s own Soul Generals band performed songs including “Sex Machine” while various people sang, Brown’s former bandmate Bootsy Collins joined in on bass and Hammer danced. At the end of “Sex Machine,” Brown’s famous cape was laid upon his casket just as it was laid across his back so many times during his concerts.
During Sharpton’s sermon, the reverend revealed his last conversation with Brown, during which the “Godfather of Soul” told him that there was a need for performers such as Michael Jackson to keep making positive music for all people.
Jackson himself stepped up to the podium and said that he was inspired by Brown from an early age.
“James Brown is my greatest inspiration,” Jackson said. “When I saw him move, I was mesmerized. … I never saw a performer move like James Brown. … James Brown, I shall miss you, and I love you so much. Thank you for everything.”
The service was the third memorial in as many days for Brown, who was honored with a public viewing at New York’s Apollo Theater on Thursday (see “Al Sharpton Says ’So Long’ To James Brown With Thousands Of Fans In NYC” ), and a private ceremony for family and close friends in Georgia on Friday.