People who knew Brown have stories, theories

Brown manager, son express doubts

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The Godfather of Soul has no shortage of storytellers. And every story has different versions, depending on who tells the tale.

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Larry Fridie, James Brown's business manager, says he made the movie deal but was not consulted on the film's making.  TODD BENNETT/STAFF
Larry Fridie, James Brown's business manager, says he made the movie deal but was not consulted on the film's making.

Since James Brown’s death on Christmas Day in 2006, family members, business partners and friends say the truth has been embellished and commingled with myth. Now, as the movie chronicling his life hits theaters nationwide, they say they want to set the record straight.

Former business manager Larry Fridie, of Aiken, claims to have brokered the original deal for the movie and talked Brown into letting it be made. Brown’s son, Daryl Brown, who lives in New Jersey, is releasing a book on the same day as the national premiere of Get On Up. Among the book’s claims is that James Brown was the victim of homicide.

Neither of them was consulted by Get On Up producers, and they’re not happy about it.

“I’m talking about who the real James Brown is. I was the only one who knew it,” Fridie said.

Deanna Brown-Thomas, Brown’s daughter who runs a nonprofit group called the Brown Family Children Foundation, previously said that the movie’s director, Tate Taylor, talked to family and band members during production.

According to Fridie, Brown was superstitious that a movie and other efforts to preserve his legacy would lead to a premature death. He agreed under certain conditions nearly a decade before he died, Fridie said.

Brown wanted the movie filmed in his hometown of Augusta, for comedian Eddie Murphy to play his character and for his accomplishments – including his work for the poor and to improve race relations – to be portrayed. Fridie has a 1997 letter from Universal Studios agreeing to the movie deal, although the conditions are not specified.

“This movie deal is my baby,” Fridie said.

Fridie said he was paid for brokering the movie deal and wants some credit now that the movie has become reality.

“The folks who are working with this movie that’s coming out now weren’t around when James Brown was alive,” he said. “They didn’t have the pleasure of hearing him say what he wanted to come out in this movie. They could have asked me, but nobody did.”

Daryl Brown said he’s wanted to write a book on his father for four years, and the movie’s release pushed him to do it. He has seen only the trailer but already has doubts about the film’s accuracy.

“They didn’t portray him. This is a good time to write the book, write the truth,” he said.

Inside the Godfather will be released Aug. 1.

Daryl Brown, who co-wrote the book with Mi­chael Chabries, said his publisher chose for the book and movie release dates to coincide. He thought it was a good idea to promote the book.

Brown said he can tell his father’s true story because he played in his band about seven years, growing close to him as they toured the world two times.

“My father’s so misunderstood. To understand him, you really have to walk with him,” he said.

The book is largely made up of first-person reminiscences from people close to Brown, such as his attorney, band members and Tomi Rae Hynie, who is known as Brown’s fourth wife.

Daryl Brown wrote his own first-person account for the book claiming his father was murdered but naming no suspects. James Brown was getting better under doctors’ care, then died suddenly. Daryl Brown found that – and the fact that an autopsy was not performed – suspicious.

“It just seems strange to me that everybody said he was fine, and then all of a sudden he was dead,” Brown wrote.

One of the book’s contributions came from William Murrell, an Augustan who was Brown’s limousine driver from 1995 until he died. Murrell said he was interviewed by Chabries at an Augusta hotel this summer.

Inaccuracies about Brown’s life hurt his legacy and draw attention away from the generosity of the soul singer, who was known for giving money to poor people, Murrell said.

“I wish people would focus on extending generosity. He didn’t really cherish money. He came from nothing. This man came from minus zero,” he said.

Murrell, too, said he wishes he had been consulted for the movie and that he wouldn’t have wanted money for doing so.


The James Brown biopic starring Chadwick Boseman as the Godfather of Soul premieres Thursday in Augusta before debuting nationally Aug. 1. The world premiere of the film was held Monday night at the Apollo Theater in New York. See photos at

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Pops 07/22/14 - 08:39 am
“They didn’t portray him. This is a good time to write the book"

"write the truth,” he said."'s actually a good time to try and make a little money off your old man's death.......

shamrock 07/22/14 - 02:02 pm
You will never know the truth

You will never know the real truth about James Brown because everyone saw a different side of him while others just make up stuff that no one can really deny. It will be interesting to see the movie and then read the book. At least there will be more than one side to the story of a man who we should always remember as one of the world's greatest entertainers no matter what the story line happens to be or who is telling it.

Jake 07/23/14 - 10:32 am
Biographies on film.....

.....are all about drawing people to the theater and entertaining them. It is never about the "truth" because you cannot capture an individual's complete personna in 2 hours.
From all accounts James Brown was a complex individual with many changes throughout his life. We all change in one form or another as we age.
Augusta Chronicle writer Don Rhodes has written an excellent book about Mr Brown and I have also read others as well. Local soul singer Mickey Murray has quite a few anecdotal stories about Mr Brown as well.
The one person who I have always wished would write a book about Mr Brown would be Augusta's own Danny Ray. He was there almost from the beginning and was certainly a part of the James Brown entourage during it's heyday.

GnipGnop 07/23/14 - 06:19 pm
No son would want to believe

That a man as great as his dad was could have died an uneventful normal death. It reminds me of the JFK assassination...everyone wants a conspiracy because nobody can fathom the fact that a simpleton could topple an empire. Your Dad was a great man and gave away his money to shouldn't tarnish his memory with a crappy book filled with conspiracy theories...

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