With the James Brown movie entitled “Get On Up,” being released this weekend, I was fortunate enough to speak with his long time friend and manager, Charles A. Bobbit.
“I knew at 7 years old that I would be involved in show business. I could not sing or even dance, but I knew one day I would be the
power behind an entertainer. My opportunity came when I saw James Brown at the Apollo. I told my wife, Ruth, I would work for James Brown one day. My future was with him. I asked Mr. Brown for a job but it took a few meetings before he hired me. The day he hired me he invited me to his home and it was there he read me. He told me I would be with him until the day he died. He told me about myself, my ambitions and knew things about me he couldn’t possibly know. I met him in 1966, but it wasn’t until 1967 that he hired me. However, during all that time he was secretly training me to be his personal manager. He explained there would be too much jealousy if he told people I was his personal manager so he would train me from the ground up. He started me off as his personal valet and I went everywhere with him while he taught me about the good and bad of show business. Mr. Brown’s training was so intense, I called myself having attended the University of Brown,” said the 84 year old Mr. Bobbit.
According to Charles Bobbit, James Brown was an unusual man, changing mood and temperament on a dime. Although not a bad man, Brown was complex and someone who couldn’t be debated or argued with nor taken for granted. He was a humane individual that favored education. And he knew music, even though he couldn’t read or write music. It was all in his head. Brown insisted his music came directly from God. Bobbit never saw James rehearse his dance moves, he simply could move fast. He was limber and had small feet and tiny legs. Brown came up with the idea of using a cape after watching the wrestler Gorgeous George wrap a towel around his self. The cape became an integral part of Brown’s act.
Over the years, Brown’s knees became arthritic from dropping to the floor during his songs. “His knees sometimes would bleed and were scarred and busted up but he didn’t share that with people. He was a very private and proud man,” explained Charles. “Mr. Brown was traditional. He insisted on being called Mr. Brown and he himself called people either “Mr” or “Miss.” Mr. Brown’s word was law. People got along with him as long as you let him be right. That was the way it was. Everyone knew this. He wasn’t always correct, but I will tell you something, Mr. Brown was talking about satellites in 1966. We thought he was nuts but later on all the things he predicted came to be.”
Charles Bobbit also worked with Michael Jackson for three years and advised West African President Omar Bongo and his family. He has a book entitled, “Making it Happen.” He is currently shopping a book deal. “I know that things are said in other books that are not always true. I was with James Brown for nearly 40 years and I have documented all he said and did, so mine will be an accurate book,” said Bobbit who dubbed Brown the Godfather of Soul.
“You know James Brown scored the movie “Black Caesar,” with Fred Williamson without even watching the movie. I told him about it and based on what I told him about the movie, Mr. Brown scored it. I also saw the current movie, “Get On Up,” and even though they left me out and other people close to Mr. Brown out, I thought it was a good movie. It’s more about his music than his life but I encourage people to see it.”
Brown was starting to have health problems. He recovered from prostrate cancer but started to feel the effects of aging, diabetes, etc.,
and decided to slow down touring. He began coughing, and looked weak although he would not admit to it. He lost weight. Mr. Bobbit became concerned when James was due to get dental work and asked a doctor to be at the dentist office to examine James before he was gassed for oral surgery. The doctor told James that he needed to go to the hospital after examining him. This was Christmas Eve. Mr. Bobbit stayed in the hospital room with James when the doctors left after telling Brown they had to drain fluid from his heart. Bobbit discussed with Brown, Brown’s upcoming tour, his movie, and the album James was recording. James gave Bobbit instruction concerning what to do when he passed. Bobbit assured Brown he was fine. But James said “No, I am leaving here tonight.” Bobbit insisted Brown would be fine. James repeated he would be leaving that night. He then clutched his chest, said he was on fire and burning up, fell back on the bed, sighed 3 times, opened his eyes and mouth wide, and died that morning, Christmas Day, at 1:21 am. Mr. Brown died of congestive heart failure.
One cannot pack a lifetime into a 2 hour movie or even into this article. For further info about Charles Bobbit’s 40 years with James Brown listen to my show at: