Eight years after his wake overflowed the Apollo Theater, “the Godfather of Soul” has found his way back to Harlem.
Local politicians, spiritual leaders, and Harlemites gathered on Saturday afternoon on the corner of 126th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard to celebrate the dedication of James Brown Way—appropriately located behind the Apollo Theater, where Brown performed frequently.
“Many have performed at the Apollo, but no one like the Godfather of Soul,” city council member Inez Dickens said at the dedication. “So it is fitting that we gather here today to dedicate the street behind the Apollo James Brown Way.”
Brown first performed in 1959 at the Apollo, where he would later record one of his most famous albums, “Live at the Apollo,” in 1962.
“Even when he didn’t feel well, he’d walk through those doors and perform,” the Rev. Al Sharpton told the audience on Saturday. “He came through the back door of society. He came through the back door of segregation. James Brown represented those who came from the guttermost to the uttermost. He was our star. He didn’t make it because someone put him there.”
Brown came from extreme poverty, spending time in prison before venturing to the top of the funk and R&B charts.
“Many black artists crossed over to mainstream,” Sharpton added. “James Brown was the first artist who made mainstream cross over. Now, for every artist, the only way to come to the stage of the Apollo is to go down James Brown Way.”