My last documentary at CNN before I joined the Obama campaign was a tribute to James Brown. One of my favorite all-time life experiences was sitting on the floor of Bootsy Collins's basement in Cincinnati while he played his bass guitar and taught me the true meaning of funk.
CNN: SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT
James Brown: Say it Proud
Aired November 22, 2007 - 14:00 ET
LEMON: He defined a new sound, a new beat.
CHUCK D, RAP ARTIST: Ban, two, three, four.
USHER: Good God.
LEMON: But for James Brown, trouble was in the wings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. James Brown had a hair-string trigger of a temper.
MICHAEL FRANK, LIEUTENANT, AIKEN COUNTY SHERIFFS OFFICE: Guns, drugs and assaults.
LEMON: And even after his final bow, controversy as his family battled over the estate.
TOMI RAE, COMPANION OF JAMES BROWN: He would be rolling in his grave right now to know that his wife and child were locked out of their home.
LEMON: Still, his music and his message live on.
ANNOUNCER: Now, Don Lemon, "James Brown, Say it Proud."
LEMON: The memorials were mobbed.
REV. AL SHARPTON, FRIEND & CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: We got about 17 blocks from the Apollo. And I saw a lot of people. And I said, "What is that?" They said, "That's the line waiting to go past his casket. People had started lining up since midnight." I remember looking up at the casket. And I said, "Well, Mr. Brown, you're still drawing lines." And I know he would have been happy.
LEMON: What an ending to a life which almost never began. It was 1933 in a one-room shack in the backwoods of South Carolina where legend has it James Brown was born dead.
BRUCE TUCKER, BIOGRAPHER: There was concern that he was not going to make it. And the family mythology has it that his Aunt Mimi blew breath into him and he emitted his first scream.
LEMON: His was a childhood of poverty and loss.
At four years old, Brown watched as his mother walked out of his life. TUCKER: He recalls seeing his mother standing in the doorway saying to his father, "Joe, you take him. You can work for him and I can't." And she left.
CHARLES BOBBIT, BUSINESS MANAGER: He harbored this, he carried this in him. I think this was one of the reasons why he was so hard on women.
LEMON: He was a little boy, spending most of his time alone, playing in the woods, eating out of garbage cans, while his dad was off earning a living, selling turpentine and boot-leg liquor, but there was never enough money.
SHARPTON: Finally, his father would come home and see he had not eaten and neighbors had promised to take care of his hadn't. And he gave up.
LEMON: Unable to raise his son, Joe Brown and James walked all night to Augusta, Georgia. It was there the father would leave his son to grow up in a brothel run by his aunt named Honey.
SHARPTON: And he would go out with the cousin. And their job was to get soldiers to come to the brothel to visit those that were engaged in prostitution.
TUCKER: He would do anything he could to bring in extra money. He shined shoes. He would dance for change for the soldiers. Before he was the hardest working man in show business, he was the hardest working kid in Augusta.
LEMON: He also would have trouble in school. His shabby clothes were a source of shame.
SHARPTON: He was kicked out of school because he couldn't dress. And other kids would laugh at him.
LEMON: He never learned to read and years later, he talked about being a seventh-grade dropout.
JAMES BROWN, ENTERTAINER: And you won't be able to do nothing unless you have a good education, because I would like to be like you and start all over again.
TUCKER: I think it really hurt him. He began stealing things, largely clothes, out of unlocked cars on the street.
LEMON: Eventually, he was caught.
BROWN: It took me about 300 miles away from home to a camp. I served three years and I was going into my fourth year and I decided that I'd better straighten myself up.
I was proud, but I wanted to get out and exercise my pride and my dignity.
BOBBIT: When he was in prison, he was well dressed. He used to take water and flour and make it into starch and put it into his trousers and press them so he would have pleats and whatnot in them.
LEMON: While in prison, James began singing in a gospel group. Word spread in the nearby town of a particularly talented inmate. A 20-year-old Bobby Byrd went to hear for himself.
BOBBY BYRD, SINGER: They told me that there was a young man there that could sing and they called him Music Box.
LEMON: After three years, Brown was released, but he kept on singing, now joining up with Bobby Byrd.
BYRD: He joined my group, the Gospel Star Lighters," got started and then there was nothing but gospel until, one time, we went to see a rock and roll show. After then, that was it. No more gospel music.
LEMON: Until the Gospel Star Lighters became the Famous Flames. Soon, they were tearing up the Chitlin circuit, a series of jute joints featuring black artists because they couldn't play anywhere else.
SHARPTON: He would talk about how the Chitlin circuit was humiliating in a sense that you worked every night but you couldn't stay downtown. It was usually a boarding house on the black side of town.
LITTLE RICHARD, ENTERTAINER: Well, you know, racism was very heavy back in those days. We would go to places to play and then could dress in the dressing room.
LEMON: So they changed outback. To keep the boss warm, Brown's valet, Danny Rae, draped him in a Turkish towel. On stage, Brown would fling it off his shoulders. The audience loved it and the cape routine became legend.
But this was the Deep South in the 1950s. Segregation was a way of life. Local sheriffs was suspicious of a car full of black men.
BYRD: There were a lot of black folk in a station wagon. And they'd stop you, call you boy, make you get out in the rain and dance and sing. And tell you you'd better not come back this way.
LEMON: It was dehumanizing and James Brown hated it.
BYRD: We was determined, after that, to make something of ourselves and make folk listen.
LEMON: And in 1956, folks did listen when James Brown and the Famous Flames hit the scene with a song that begged for attention.
The song would put James Brown on the charts. But as you'll find out when we come back, it almost never happened.
TUCKER: Sid Nathan was in his office, and he heard them recording it. And he burst into the studio and said, "What is this noise? Stop it." And coming up, Usher gets on his good foot to honor his mentor and friend.
LEMON: It was his first real hit.
TUCKER: James wrote, "Please, Please, Please."
It's an extraordinary record. It begins at a level of intensity that you associate with the climax of the record, not with the beginning. Today, it still has the power to send chills down your spine when James bursts out with those first three words. You realize you are hearing an original American voice.
FRED WESLEY, MUSIC DIRECTOR: James Brown put more feeling in his music than anybody else had had. He would crowd up his space and he would scream.
SHARPTON: The scream was his way of letting out the agony and ecstasy of his journey.
LITTLE RICHARD: You could feel it. I even had to go back and tell my manager, "This guy's got it." It made my big toe shoot up in my boot.
LEMON: But it was a record that almost never happened.
TUCKER: One very stormy night, the Famous Flames were playing a club there in Macon. And Ralph Bass -- he was a talent scout from King Records -- and he had come down there to sign them.
LEMON: No sooner had they signed, they ran into trouble. Sid Nathan, the owner of team records.
TUCKER: Sid Nathan was in his office and he heard them recording it. And he burst into the studio and said, "What is this noise? Stop it. That's horrible."
LEMON: After a lot of yelling and screaming, the Flames convinced Nathan to release the record nationally.
TUCKER: Well, it went to number six on the R&B charts. And Mr. Nathan had to eat his words, not for the first time where James Brown was concerned.
LEMON: October 24, 1962, Harlem, the legendary Apollo Theater, James Brown and his band were about to make history with a live recording. But once again, Sid Nathan threatened to douse the Flames.
TUCKER: He said, "James, who wants to hear the same songs over again and live and not well recorded?" And James put up the money himself and they recorded an entire James Brown show.
BYRD: Boy, we was cooking. We was cooking. LEMON: Once again, James Brown's instinct was right on. The live recording was the second best selling album of 1963. It was a performance as much, as well as the music, that was driving his fans wild.
One of his most electrifying performances was in 1964 on Dick Clark's show.
LARRY FRIDIE, BUSINESS MANAGER: And the Rolling Stones and Mr. Brown was on stage together. And Mr. Brown lit the stage up. He'd throw it up so bad. And he hated that the Rolling Stones was behind him, but he had something to prove. And Dick Clark told me himself that they had to pull Mick Jagger off the stage. Because Mick Jagger was so -- he had never seen nobody dance like that, sing like that. And the band was hip. And he just killed them. And a white America went wild for James Brown.
TUCKER: At the end, James goes into his dance and it is absolutely extraordinary.
SHARPTON: He would be five or six pounds a show. And I would tell him and the audience lost one or two pounds just watching.
LEMON: But it wasn't until 1965 that he would break through to a white audience with a song that put him on top.
WESLEY: James Brown was telling people that he's going to do something different from now on. Papa has got a brand new bag. Brand new bag was a brand new brand of music.
BOBBIT: He felt a new beat. He heard a new sound.
CHUCK D: James Brown made sure everybody hit their emphasis on the first beat.
BOOTSY COLLINS, BAND MEMBER: He always told me, "Son, you've got to play it on the one." And I was like, on the one? What the heck is he talking about?
He said, "On every one, you've got to play a dominant note."
USHER: James Brown is the master of the one.
CHUCK D: Bam, two, three, four, bam.
USHER: "Good God."
LEMON: It was the beginning of what became James Brown's enduring contribution to American music -- Funk.
COLLINS: Funk was like the way we lived. All of us kids sleeping in one room, it's 105 degrees outside, no air-conditioning. That's funk.
SHARPTON: Funk was what's scripted or was not what is accepted. Funk is what is felt. LEMON: When we come back, a new era of black pride.
And Usher remembers James Brown.
LEMON: Your favorite is what?
USHER: "Get up off that thing," "I'm black and I'm proud," "Sex Machine." Get on up, stay on the scene. Get on up like a sex machine. Get on up, get on up.
JACKIE JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I'm CNN Meteorologist Jackie Jeras at the Severe Weather Center with some very important information.
In Kansas right now, we have two tornados very likely on the ground. The first one is for northern Barton, Ellsworth and Russell Counties. Trained storm spotters are reporting a tornado through the town of Great Bend. A tornado emergency was issued at the top of the hour. We have storm spotters out on the scene and they are reporting some damage. At this time, we are not aware of how serious that damage is.
In addition to this, another tornado warning has been issued now for Kiowa County and this includes Greensburg. You can see two red blocks here on your screen. It's the one near Mullinville that Doppler Radar is indicating very strong rotation. And this will likely be moving through the town of Greensburg.
As we get more information, we will pass that along to you.
You need to be taking cover right now. Complete coverage coming up tonight at 11:00.
We're going to go to a break and the James Brown special will continue.
LEMON: The James Brown of the late '60s was a man with a message, from a nobody who dropped out of school in the seventh grade to the somebody he always said he would be. Standing side by side with Vice President Hubert Humphrey, encouraging kids to stay in school.
BROWN: And you won't be able to do nothing unless you have a good education.
LEMON: He was an accidental politician that people voted for by buying his records.
BOBBIT: They started calling him the black president and all this kind of stuff. And he said, "No, no, no, because to be that, you have to be educated and I'm only a seventh-grade education person." But Mr. Brown had a talent that, until this date, has been unequal for any politician. People listened to him. He could talk to the masses.
LEMON: And talk, he did. In April, 1968, in the wake of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., cities around the country erupted in violence.
The day after King's death, Brown was scheduled to perform in Boston, but city leaders feared he might stir up more trouble.
TUCKER: The mayor of Boston, Kevin White, was under some pressure to cancel it, but after some tense negotiations in the limo from the airport on the way to the Garden, arrangements were made for WGBH there in Boston to broadcast the concert live to try to keep people home and off the streets.
LEMON: But with fewer people showing up at the concert, Brown figured he would lose $60,000 in ticket sales. Ever the businessman, he demanded the mayor pay him. James Brown got his way.
KEVIN WHITE, MAYOR OF BOSTON: All of us are here tonight to listen to a great talent, James Brown.
LEMON: The atmosphere that night was tense. Towards the end of the concert, many in the audience rushed the stage. Then the police jumped in.
BRYD: What folks couldn't see was that they were ready to riot with the police. They were ready to do anything. As a matter of fact, some of it did go on.
BROWN: I'll be all right. I'll be fine.
LEMON: Brown, unfazed, kept the peace.
BROWN: We're black. Don't make us all look bad. Let me finish doing the show. Get off the stage.
LEMON: After the Boston concert, it became clear, James Brown had sway with blacks, so-called street cred. It became more apparent in 1968 after the riots.
After performing in Los Angeles, back in his hotel room, James Brown saw a disturbing news report about black on black crime. It became inspiration.
BOBBIT: He said, "Come to my room. I want to show you something." So I walked up to his room and when I went in his room, laying on the desk on two napkins was "Say it Loud, I'm black and I'm Proud."
LEMON: Just 40 hours later, the song hit the air waves and struck a nerve. It was finally okay for black people to say...
MULTIPLE SINGERS: I'm black and I'm proud.
LEMON: And you didn't have to be black. SHARPTON: He made people all over the world, whites in America, Asians, like black music and identify with it. He had them actually singing "I'm black and I'm proud," people that weren't even remotely black, didn't know what the chant meant to be black in America.
CHUCK D: I was an 8-year-old kid. And I was jumping for joy because it was James Brown. We got up, did the Popcorn and yelled to the top of on our lungs that it was great to say black is beautiful, especially when you've got Negro on your birth certificate. So it was definitely a step up.
LEMON: But with America's racial tension boiling over, some tried to distort his message.
BOBBIT: When he would start singing it, the brothers would stand up. Say it loud, this and that and, you know, it made it look like this was inspiring them to fight or to be violent or whatnot. And that was not what the song was made for. It was to unite, not separate.
LEMON: The ultimate display of black pride came late in 1968. James Brown ditched the straightener and hair rollers and grew an afro.
COLLINS: That was probably one of the deepest things he ever did in his life, you know, was cut his hair. If he had a choice in going on stage naked or his hair, I think he'd go on stage naked.
LEMON: It was a nice nod to black power, but it didn't last.
WESLEY: We noticed that it got a little slicker and got a little slicker and then it was back to the do before you know it. But for a long time, he had a natural, an afro, so he could be black and proud.
LEMON: A 1969 cover of "Look" magazine would ask, "Is James Brown the most important black man in America?" That superstar status would be tested in 1972.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORT: Mr. Brown, why are you endorsing President Nixon?
LEMON: He endorsed presidential candidate Richard Nixon against his business manager's wishes.
CHARLES BOBBIT, BROWN'S BUSINESS MANAGER: I was looking at it from a business standpoint. Black people did not like Richard Nixon and I knew this would hurt our record sales.
LEMON: But he stood his ground. His reasons? His own politics of pride.
REV. AL SHARPTON, FRIEND AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: He was the original guy that believed in lift-yourself-up philosophy. He never felt that government owed him or us anything but an equal, even playing field.
LEMON: And he liked what Nixon had to say.
FRANK "SUPERFRANK" COPSIDAS, AGENT: President Nixon told him, first of all, he shouldn't have to pay taxes, that he was a national treasure and national treasures should be like state parks, nonprofits, they shouldn't pay taxes.
LEMON: A message Brown apparently took to heart.
BRUCE TUCKER, BIOGRAPHER: The government initiated a tax case against him which dragged on for years and years.
LEMON: And as we find out when we return, it wouldn't be his only brush with the law.
BOBBY BYRD, SINGER: She looked at me and that was it. She had to have me. That's the vow we made
VICKI ANDERSON, WIFE OF BOBBY BYRD: He charmed me. That's what he did.
LEMON: It was a match made on tour. With the James Brown band in 1965, singers' Bobby Byrd and Vicki Anderson fell in love, a rare personal defeat for James Brown.
BYRD: He wanted my wife.
ANDERSON: But I chose Bobby, you know. And Bobby chose me.
BYRD: When we first got together it was hell. There's so many things that was put off on me and so many things that was done to me because of my wife.
LEMON: It was the classic James Brown game, play his way or pay. And Bobby Byrd would pay for winning Vicki. He knew the drill. Brown handed out fines with the flick of the wrist.
BYRD: Just like that.
LEMON: No matter how small the offense.
BYRD: No crease in the pants, shoes dirty, coat wrinkled, that kind of thing would cost you $10, $15, $20.
LEMON: Even in the middle of a show.
BYRD: A lot of times, he would dance over there in the front of you and do that, you know? And dance and slide back across the floor.
LEMON: James Brown ruled with an iron hand. It was the price you paid to play with the man who was known as the Godfather of Soul. And the band would take the beating as long as the pay was good, which wasn't always the case.
ANDERSON: He really did some good things because I was in Houston, Texas, and very poor, very poor. And he changed my whole life around. And for that, I'm thankful. But then, when I worked -- don't be giving me no peanuts.
LEMON: Band members say Brown constantly short changed them or paid them late. So one night in March 1970, they had had enough and refused to play unless Brown paid up. But he had a little something for them.
BOBBIT: If I'm not mistaken, I think he said, "Well, you gentlemen can leave my uniforms. Good-bye." And that was it.
LEMON: Unbeknownst to them, Brown had sent a private plane to pick up a replacement band.
Bootsy Collins and the Pace Setters, teenage musicians from Cincinnati, Ohio.
BOOTSY COLLINS, BAND MEMBER: We didn't really believe him, you know? It was like, James Brown? Play with him? No. You've got to be kidding me. Yes, come on.
LEMON: The old band members were stunned.
COLLINS: The security rushed us on through. We saw some of the looks on the ban members' face and it wasn't a nice look.
BOBBIT: They probably were ticked off, but there was not very much that they could do. What are you going to do, fight? If you want to fight, he would fight. No one would go up against him at the time, because at that time, we were armed.
LEMON: Without a rehearsal, Bootsy's band took the stage.
BOBBIT: All of the sudden, you hear this band hit and these kids hit knew every note.
LEMON: And like magic, James Brown played on.
WESLEY: The real truth is, any band that James Brown stands in front of, there's a powerful band all of the sudden because the energy fuses the parts together. Everybody knew the parts to play. The band became instantly tight when he stood in front of that band.
LEMON: But off stage, his new, young band would begin to rebel against the James Brown system.
COLLINS: I think finally it became useless. We came there with nothing. We didn't care whether we had nothing or not. Really, just give us a couple of girls, a couple bottles of wine, a little weed. You know, we was cool.
LEMON: The young and cocky Bootsy Collins pushed the limits, even taking drugs before concerts.
COLLINS: Purple haze all in my brain.
Yes, I did it for the first time on his show.
LEMON: Brown was furious.
BOBBIT: He didn't last and he didn't play most of the time. He wasn't like that. He was serious. Most people don't know that. He didn't party.
LEMON: Brown was beginning to lose control. The good, clean days of shined shoes and creased pants were coming to an end. Band members started to drift away.
BYRD: When we left, things kind of fell apart.
LEMON: And disco began to drown out the Godfather of Soul.
The darkest times were just beginning for James Brown.
UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Mr. James Brown.
LEMON: Disco burned hot in the '70s.
COLLINS: He hated disco with a passion. Oh, man.
LEMON: James Brown's signature funk was out, and it spelled the beginning of more trouble for the struggling soul singer.
TUCKER: The government initiated a tax case against him, which dragged on for years and years.
In 1973, his son, Teddy, was killed in an automobile accident in upstate New York. James was absolutely devastated.
LEMON: Teddy was buried in the serene mountains of North Georgia.
In grief over the death of his oldest child, Brown reached out to a young New York preacher, Al Sharpton.
SHARPTON: I became, I believe, the replacement for Teddy. I became the ambitious young son, who wasn't on stage, but who wanted to be something and wanted his legacy sealed.
LEMON: Brown suppressed his grief by working. He hit the road.
JAMES BROWN, ENTERTAINER: Everybody want to get funky one more time?
SHARPTON: We would go to some city and only sell half the house. And I was like, "Well, you know, Mr. Brown, you're a little older now. And, you know, music has changed.
"Reverend, nothing changed. This is just -- there's mountains and valleys." He said, "You just go through the valleys so you can get to the higher mountains."
LEMON: A cameo appearance in the 1980 movie "Blues Brothers" put Brown back on the map, and just three years later, a hit"
Success did little, however, to heal Brown's pain and his penchant for self-destruction.
LT. MICHAEL FRANK, AIKEN COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: To sum up his involvement with local law enforcement, you could use three words -- guns, drugs and assaults.
LEMON: In 1988, wielding a shotgun and high on PCP, Brown led police on a high-speed chase crisscrossing state lines. It ended with police shooting out his tires. And the aging star was taken into custody.
COLLINS: My hat goes off to him. He waited until he was, like, 50, you know, he started going crazy.
LEMON: For the second time in his life, James Brown was headed to prison. He called out for some old fashioned Dixie help.
He called you. And you were at home in Washington is, is that correct?
LARRY FRIDIE, BUSINESS MANAGER: Exactly right.
LEMON: What did he say to you?
FRIDIE: He said, "Mr. Fridie, don't hang up on me. This is James Brown, the Godfather of Soul. I'm down here and I'm incarcerated and it's unjust. And I need your help." He said, "Do you know Strom Thurman?" I said, "Yes, sir, I do." He said, "Well, go tell Strom Thurman to get me out."
LEMON: Two sons of South Carolina, the black musical icon and the white former segregationist Senator had struck up and unlikely friendship years before.
Did it work?
FRIDIE: He actually called and just did a couple of things to help Mr. Brown. But Mr. Brown actually served his time.
UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Mr. James Brown.
LEMON: Brown's release didn't stop his tendency towards self- destruction, even on live television.
UNIDENTIFIED TV HOST: How did all of this trouble begin?
BROWN: "Living in America" alone from night to night you find me.
UNIDENTIFIED TV HOST: Your fans will have read all about this, James. Aren't you concerned about that?
BROWN: ... muchas. No. Dunkashein.
LEMON: More drug charges, more weapons charges and domestic violence. A call to 911 from his wife, Adrienne.
DISPATCHER: Have he been drinking anything, Ms. Brown?
ADRIENNE BROWN, FORMER WIFE OF JAMES BROWN: He's been taking dope.
LEMON: Two years later, a call to 911, this time from Tomi Rae, Brown's last companion.
TOMI RAE BROWN, BROWN'S COMPANION: Hello?
DISPATCHER: This is 911. What's going on there?
RAE: Well, my husband just -- me and him got in a fight. He threw me on to the ground and now I can't move, my whole right arm is jammed up.
LEMON: Married at least three times, James Brown had a violent history with women, perhaps a reaction to the trauma of being abandoned by his mother.
ANDERSON: Can you imagine growing up thinking that his mom didn't want him? I think he was a friend of the way that he was treated. And to love made you be weak. He didn't want to drop his guard, even with his women.
SHARPTON: I remember one night we was talking. And he said, "I've had to say good-bye more than I've had to say hello in life. I got used to saying good-bye to people."
VENETIA BROWN, DAUGHTER: I hope I didn't keep you too long.
LEMON: Venetia and Darrel Brown knew how guarded their father was.
V BROWN: My dad was a very private man.
DARREL BROWN, SON: Very private.
D. BROWN: And a lot of times when it was issues to dealing with his feeling feelings, you know, he would shut down on you.
D. BROWN: But there were some beautiful times though. There were some times when he let his guard down, if it was only for five minutes. But then he would catch himself and it was like, "OK, that is enough of that."
LEMON: Do you believe in what he said, it's a man's world?
V. BROWN: But it would be nothing without a woman or a girl.
LEMON: James Brown had at least six children, but in truth, music was always his first child.
By age 70, James Brown had managed to beat back most of his demons and was ready to head back up to the mountain one last time. COPSIDAS: His one wish was to play in front of 10,000 more people in his life.
And in the summer of 2005, he played to crowds of almost 2 million.
COPSIDAS: He said he would be doing this for at least another 20 years, if not until when he was 100.
LEMON: While he didn't make it to 100, even in death, James Brown managed to draw a crowd and controversy.
RAE: I was expecting to go home and be able to hold my own things and be able to be with my son and lay in my husband's bed and just enjoy that moment. And they stole it from me.
LEMON: You can make it here, right?
USHER, RAP ARTIST: If you could make it here, you'd make it anywhere.
LEMON: To R&B star Usher, James Brown had been a mentor. Both from George, they found fame in New York City.
LEMON: You performed at the Apollo, not that far from here. What is it like walking out onto that stage?
USHER: So many major artists who have graced the stage, you share the spirit of each and every one of them every time that you walk in there.
LEMON: James Brown said it was a pivotal moment for his career and for his life when he recorded at the Apollo. Even though New York was special to him, he never really felt at home.
To James Brown, home was always Georgia, and that's where he took his last breath, early Christmas morning in Atlanta. The news was instant and crushing.
ANTHONY KEIDIS, ENTERTAINER: He was magic. He was just pure magic.
SMOKEY ROBINSON, ENTERTAINER: He was just a bundle of dynamite.
QUINCY JONES, ENTERTAINER: James Brown has it. Whatever it is, he has it, you know?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put your hands together.
COLLINS: What made it real for me was when I actually went down to Augusta and went up to the coffin and actually seen him laying there. When I touched him, that's when I realized he was dead.
LEMON: But nearly three months later, James Brown had still not been buried. Lying in the same coffin, as family members and lawyers battled over a burial sit he inherited, and whether Brown was legally married to his last companion, Tomi Rae.
RAE: I'm his wife. He calls me his wife. He insists that they call me Mrs. Brown. If they call me Tomi Rae or Miss Rae, they stand to get fired. Mr. Brown was a very strict man. And it was all about Mr. and Mrs. to him. And I was Mrs. Brown.
LEMON: DNA was collected to help resolve future paternity actions.
Finally, on March 10, 2007, 75 days after his death, James Brown's body was placed in a temporary crypt.
Reverend Al Sharpton, Brown's surrogate son, says once estate claims are settled, Brown will be interred in a public mausoleum, a Graceland, James Brown style.
So your favorite is what?
USHER: Man from "Jam" to "Get Up Off that Thing," "I'm Black and I'm Proud," "Sex Machine." Get on up, stay on the scene. Get on up like a sex machine. Get on up.
USHER: Funk, the most important ingredient.
LEMON: Usher honored Brown at the 2005 Grammy Awards.
USHER: I gave 100 percent of myself when I did my solo. I came off the trampoline, did a little lock in, I did a little footwork. I made a split and came back up, touched myself and put my handkerchief back in. And then, now you see from which he comes. James Brown, he comes down in ceremony. And it's history. That's history for me, man. I'm so happy that I was able to share it with him.
LEMON: I can see that it's real because your face is lighting up when you're talking about this man.
USHER: Yes. Just to be able to get that close to him and see him move was amazing.
LEMON: What did he talk to you about?
USHER: He talked to me about putting a positive message in the world for our youth. I had to get real close to him in order to hear each and every word. I was like what is he saying. Because you know -- we have to teach the kids. He used his music truly to speak to the masses.
LEMON: Let's talk a little bit more about his contribution. At one point, his face couldn't even be on the records.
USHER: Black faces, period, couldn't be on records at one point in time. There was something different in the way he conducted his business that made him different. He would have the leverage to say, "If you want me to give you my music, then you're going to have to put my face on the front of this album cover."
LEMON: He's the most sampled artist in history. Surprising?
LEMON: Have you ever sampled him?
USHER: Have I ever sampled him?
LEMON: Recorded one of his songs?
USHER: Stay tuned.
Can you get on a good foot?
LEMON: I can't dance like that. Usher is asking me how to dance.
If you have ever, as an R&B artist or pop artist, moved your feet and got on the good foot, you need to give it up for James Brown because my man definitely made it possible for us to do what we do, all right?
BROWN: Georgia, oh, Georgia
LEMON: At the House of Blues and elsewhere, Brown always recalled his beginning.
SHARPTON: I would always get teary-eyed when he would sing "Georgia," because I would always think about, he wasn't thinking about Georgia the way others would think about Georgia. He was thinking about where he had come from and how far he had come.
LEMON: In the end, he traveled far beyond Georgia to become a national treasure, inspiring generations to come.
Eleven-year-old Whitney Johnson lives in Brown's hometown of Augusta, Georgia.
Do you know who James Brown is?
WHITNEY JOHNSON: I know that he was the Godfather of Soul.
LEMON: What do you think that means?
JOHNSON: That I can be my own person and not imitating anybody else.
LEMON: And what's your favorite song of James Brown's?
JOHNSON: "I Feel Good."
LEMON: Do you know how the words go?
LEMON & JOHNSON: I feel good. I knew that I would now. LEMON: That's was good.
James Brown, he made everyone feel so good.