There was speculation and anticipation all week about what celebrities would attend the public memorial service for James Brown.
Talk of singers such as Usher, Aretha Franklin, Prince and even rap mogul Diddy making appearances swirled in the rumor mills for days, yet by the time the James Brown Arena was filled to its top by eager fans Saturday, only a few celebrities came to say goodbye.
Former bandmates and lifelong friends gathered in honor of the man and his music. Some sang, some danced, others spoke. Still others watched silently but solemnly from their seats.
Chuck D, of the groundbreaking rap group Public Enemy, watched from the floor toward the back, standing before moving forward and taking a seat on the floor.
Though he was 2 years old when Mr. Brown recorded his legendary Live at the Apollo, the music had a major impact on him.
Public Enemy sampled Mr. Brown heavily on the groundbreaking albums It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and Fear of a Black Planet.
Chuck D, whose real name is Carlton Ridenhour, said Mr. Brown was more than a musician.
"He was almost like a black king or president, an international ambassador of culture and soul," Chuck D said. "Simple as that."
He said he agreed with the Rev. Al Sharpton's statement in Thursday's memorial in Harlem that hip hop acts who sample Mr. Brown shouldn't be rapping about violence and degrading women. Public Enemy's black power message is similar to Mr. Brown's - power through education and self-improvement.
"He's absolutely correct," he said of the Rev. Sharpton. "We always tried to stay in the rhythm and sentiment of Mr. Brown."
Chuck D said the rap music that glorifies black-on-black crime started after greedy corporations took over the genre.
At one point, Chuck D was pulled aside by Mark Pugh, who was an assistant to Charles "Champ" Walker when he organized the James Brown Soul of America Music Festival last spring.
Afterward, Chuck D said he was asked if Public Enemy could perform at 2007's James Brown Music Festival in Augusta.
He said he would be interested in performing if the group's schedule would allow it.
Mr. Walker confirmed that three possible dates wouldn't work for Public Enemy but added that the date hasn't been finalized.
Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Reach Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223 or email@example.com.
WHO WAS THERE
Celebrities in attendance at Saturday's homegoing celebration for James Brown:
- Michael Jackson
- Jesse Jackson
- Al Sharpton
- Leon Austin, of Leon Austin and the Buicks, a childhood friend of Mr. Brown who supposedly taught him to play piano and organ
- Chuck D, a member of the rap group Public Enemy
- Bruce Bruce, the comedian
- Bobby Byrd, former member of the Famous Flames
- Johnny Terry, former member of the Famous Flames
- MC Hammer
- Ali Woodson, former lead singer of The Temptations
- Vicki Anderson-Byrd
- Marva Whitney
- Dick Gregory
- Bootsy Collins, a member of the JB's and later Parliament/Funkadelic
- Fred Wesley, former member of the JB's and later a member of Parliament/Funkadelic
- Derrick Monk, James Brown's protege, sang God Has Smiled on Me