“You won’t leave this hypnotic book without feeling that James Brown is still out there, howling.”—The Boston Globe
ONE OF NPR’S BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR • LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE FINALIST
Kill ’Em and Leave is more than a book about James Brown. Brown embodied the contradictions of American life: He was an unsettling symbol of the tensions between North and South, black and white, rich and poor. After receiving a tip that promises to uncover the man behind the myth, James McBride goes in search of the “real” James Brown. McBride’s travels take him to forgotten corners of Brown’s never-before-revealed history, illuminating not only our understanding of the immensely troubled, misunderstood, and complicated Godfather of Soul, but the ways in which our cultural heritage has been shaped by Brown’s enduring legacy.
Praise for Kill ’Em and Leave
“A tour de force of cultural reportage.”—The Seattle Times
“Thoughtful and probing.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Masterly . . . powerful.”—Los Angeles Review of Books
“McBride provides something lacking in most of the books about James Brown: an intimate feeling for the musician, a veracious if inchoate sense of what it was like to be touched by him. . . . It may be as close [to ‘the real James Brown’] as we’ll ever get.”—David Hajdu, The Nation
“A feat of intrepid journalistic fortitude.”—USA Today
“[McBride is] the biographer of James Brown we’ve all been waiting for. . . . McBride’s true subject is race and poverty in a country that doesn’t want to hear about it, unless compelled by a voice that demands to be heard.”—Boris Kachka, New York
“Illuminating . . . engaging.”—The Washington Post
“A gorgeously written piece of reportage that gives us glimpses of Brown’s genius and contradictions.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
James McBride’s quest to understand the man behind James Brown’s self-perpetuated myth of personality unfolds like an artful detective story. The National Book Award–winning author crosses the South, piecing together clues about Brown’s life, using creative storytelling, personal insight, and intimate interviews to paint a powerful portrait of the shape-shifting, often troubled artist. But we loved McBride’s book most because it was so much more than another musician bio. Drawing on the stories of Brown’s moneymen and lifelong friends, fellow celebrities and collaborators, Kill ‘Em and Leave tells a nuanced, deeply moving story of the cultural, social, and racial forces that created a musical revolutionary—and continue to shape American music.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I am a serial reader of music bios of artists I love. I have read several hundred books on musical artists and I believe this book has pierced me on a level far beyond any of these. This book is a courageous long overdo correction for the deepest most important musical and social figure of my life. I am a 56 year old white fan musician who sits here in tears over the beauty and dignity of the presentation. The sequence flow and at the end the five hour visit from MJ upon his death says it all. I hope that others can get the same depth of feeling from your work. This story is both heartbreaking and at the same time reflects the struggles and humanity that was his glorious life. This is without a doubt the most remarkable music bios ever written. I cannot praise this enough . Thank you for an incredibly moving experience and read. Wow....