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Publisher's Summary

National Book Award winner James McBride goes in search of the "real" James Brown - and his surprising journey illuminates not only our understanding of the Godfather of Soul but the ways in which our cultural heritage has been shaped by Brown's legacy.

A product of the complicated history of the American South, James Brown was a cultural shape-shifter who arguably had the greatest influence on American popular music of any artist. Brown was long a figure of fascination for James McBride, a professional musician as well as a writer. When McBride receives a tip that promises to uncover the man behind the myth, he follows a trail that reveals the personal, musical, and societal influences that created this immensely troubled, misunderstood, and complicated soul genius.

James McBride is one of the most distinctive and electric voices in American literature today, and in Kill 'Em and Leave he uncovers a story that helps to explain Brown's legacy: the cultural landscape of America today.

©2015 James McBride (P)2015 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Dominic Hoffman's performance is fantastic as he grooves and funks to the material.... His accents and pacing deftly capture each individual who was part of Brown's life." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

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Story

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  • Raleigh
  • greensboro, NC, United States
  • 06-17-16

always in view / never understood

? do you find james brown's music unforgettable
? do the sad stories of his life seem incomplete
? are you willing to speculate about his true nature

if so, james mc bride has a terrific book for you
brown was a fastidious, pessimistic and driven man
he then hid those qualities in a public life of explosive music

the idea of being truly known, by his fans or anyone, terrified him
his music and stage performances were, for him, a reliable shield
mc bride, almost like an archaeologist, has many layers to get through

the truth about brown is often implied or shaded rather than stated
the most reliable references are almost always subtle or oblique
connecting these disparate dots requires mc bride's best effort and insight

as i listen to james brown's music now, mc bride's book comes to mind
his observations and conclusions amplify its' energy and meaning
i'd recommend this sly, speculative book to any true james brown fan


3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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A Captivating Narrative of a Complex Man

First off, I usually do not write reviews but because of McBride's fluid narrative of Mr. James Brown, I was compelled to do so.
I grew up in the 1960s in NY and Mr. Brown's music had my friends jumping to his unabashed funk. He epitomized Blackness in a brash, and proudly unapologetic way.
Years later I would hear the stories of abuse of women, his band members, etc. I would also relocate to South Carolina, which McBride nailed in his descriptions of its resident's attitude and posture on race and status. McBride and the audio narrator do an Excellent job in conveying what possibly made Mr. Brown the complex man he was. From the insightful interviews, history and environment, Mr. Brown's story is one of survival. Right, wrong, and crazy, but non the less on his own terms.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant, compelling, profound, funny, sad, great

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Absolutely. A terrific story of one of the most important and ground breaking artists our culture has produced...in spite of our racist culture.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Who else but Mr. Brown. Close second: the author, who put so much of himself into this book and in the best way possible.

What about Dominic Hoffman’s performance did you like?

I kept thinking he was the author; that's how convincing and heartfelt his reading is.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

If I had the time, yes.

Any additional comments?

This is not just the story of James Brown, and you don't have to be a rabid fan like me to enjoy this book. It's the story of African American artists and their struggle. The story of families, supportive families and less benign relatives. There are heroes in this book, mainly black but also white. I could go on, but I will spare you...except one last word: I'm a white, middle aged male. I learned a hell of a lot about myself and my attitudes about race from reading this book, and for that, I thank Mr. James McBride.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Powerful. Story

A well written story written by an musician that understands the world James Brown lived in.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A contextual biography that is well worth the ride

James Brown was one of the most influential and important American musicians in the last half of the 20th century and James McBride does a stellar job describing Brown's life and the environment--political, racial and musical--from which he emerged. McBride also describes the lasting impact Brown had on Michael Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton and others.

McBride only briefly mentions some of the troubling aspects of Brown's life, including his violence against women. The brief coverage of these apparently recurring episodes was inadequate and seemed out of place in an otherwise in depth review of Brown's life.

Dominic Hoffman turns in a dazzling performance narrating the book. Of particular note is Hoffman's treatment of a colloquy between Brown and a young Rev. Al Sharpton after Brown rocked the house at a Las Vegas concert. Sharpton wanted to stay for the after-party, but Brown felt that a true superstar shouldn't stick around after the show: "Kill 'em and leave, Rev. Kill 'em and leave."

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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All around great book.

Weather you are a fan of James Brown or not this is an excellent book. The book is also a great history lesson.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Beautiful but sorrowful history

Excellent narration and a superb job by James McBride in telling the story of his search for James Brown.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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New kinda Epic

remarkable live by/die by saga. . heartfelt epic of black tragedy and musical whimsy

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Please Please Please

I FEEL GOOD after listening to this. Amazing story and great narration. Please please PLEASE listen to this and find your soul, America's soul, and James Brown's creation of that soul.

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Just when you thought you knew James Brown...

What made the experience of listening to Kill 'Em and Leave the most enjoyable?

The narrator caught the tone of the story. I couldn't wait to get back in the car to listen to more.

Who was your favorite character and why?

James Brown, the subject of the book. I learned much more about the man.

What does Dominic Hoffman bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

His character voicing is incredible.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I felt the author educated the reader on African American culture as much as educated us on the Godfather of Soul.