Flo Carter, a gospel and country singer, recalls a memorable night in Augusta when James Brown sang just to her and her husband.
"My husband, Don, and I were at the old Green Jacket restaurant on Washington Road to celebrate a special anniversary," she said. "We were waiting for a table in the front area near a fireplace when James came in to eat.
"He came right over to us to say hello and catch up on what we were doing. When he learned it was our anniversary, he began singing that ballad Time After Time, a cappella, just to us.
"Some of the lyrics go: 'I only know what I know, the passing years will show, you've kept my love so young, so new. And time after time, you'll hear me say that I'm so lucky to be loving you.' "
She paused and, her voice breaking, said, "I had heard James do everything, but I hadn't heard him sing a ballad that way. Don and I were talking about it last night. He really touched us when he sang it just for us."
Mrs. Carter first came to know Mr. Brown when he was a teenager running errands for patrons of the Bon Air Hotel when it was in its prime as a resort.
"My mother, Ada Collins, was the executive housekeeper in the Bon Air, and I was singing in the Terrace Room then," she said.
Many years later, she found herself singing I Got You (I Feel Good) to Mr. Brown at a party for Mayor Bob Young in Julian Smith Casino.
"We live in Beech Island, and you would see James often in that area," she said of his residence. "My daughter, Toni, who plays bass guitar, and James were pretty close.
"He frequently watched the Parade of Quartets TV show that airs on WJBF on Sunday mornings that I and my family sing on, and he came to sing on the show quite a few times. The host, Henry Howard, thought the world of him."
Mrs. Carter said she was impressed that Mr. Brown never forgot the home folks who cared about him.
"A lot of people leave this area but you rarely hear them talk about Barnwell or Beech Island or Augusta like James did," she said. "He always was talking about where he came from with love. You don't hear humongous entertainers like James Brown doing that. They go on to become big stars and sometimes don't remember where they came from."
She said that in spite of Mr. Brown's slips of moral character, she believes he has entered the gates of heaven.
"Some people's troubles may be different from James' troubles, but everybody has them," she said. "Every family has them. Every person has them in some way or another. Nobody is perfect.
"You know people really need to look at things with a Christian heart and a Christian mind. James, honest to goodness, really loved the Lord, and he really loved people. I think that is the criteria for getting into heaven, and James lived up to that."
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