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Download Kill ’Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample Kill ’Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul, by James McBride Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: James McBride Narrator: Dominic Hoffman Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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National Book Award winner James McBride goes in search of the “real” James Brown—and his surprising journey illuminates 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 of any artist on American popular music. Brown was long a figure of fascination for James McBride, a noted professional musician as well as a writer. When he received a tip that promised to uncover the man behind the myth, McBride set off to follow a trail that revealed the personal, musical, and societal influences that created this immensely troubled, misunderstood, and complicated soul genius.

Kill ’Em and Leave is more than a book about James Brown. Brown’s rough-and-tumble life, through McBride’s lens, is an unsettling metaphor for American life: the tension between North and South, black and white, rich and poor. McBride’s travels take him to forgotten corners of Brown’s never-before-revealed history: the country town where Brown’s family and thousands of others were displaced by America’s largest nuclear power bomb-making facility; a South Carolina field where a long-forgotten cousin reveals, in the dead of night, a fuller history of Brown’s sharecropping childhood, which until now has been a mystery. McBride seeks out the American expatriate in England who cocreated the James Brown sound, visits the trusted right-hand manager who worked with Brown for forty-one years, and sits at the feet of Brown’s most influential nonmusical creation, his “adopted son,” the Reverend Al Sharpton. He reveals the stirring visit of Michael Jackson to the Augusta, Georgia, funeral home where the King of Pop sat up all night with the body of his musical godfather, spends hours talking with Brown’s first wife, and reveals the Dickensian legal contest over James Brown’s valuable estate, a fight that has destroyed careers, cheated children out of their educations, cost Brown’s estate millions in legal fees, sent Brown’s trusted accountant, David Cannon, to jail for a crime for which he was not convicted, and has left James Brown’s body to lie for more than eight years in a gilded coffin on his daughter’s front lawn in South Carolina.

James McBride is one of the most distinctive and electric literary voices in America today, and Kill ’Em and Leave is a song unearthing and celebrating James Brown’s great legacy: the cultural landscape of America today.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “A collection of diverse meditations and interpretations in search of James Brown…When McBride digs in, especially when describing the music…by virtue of his own training as a saxophonist, he does so with great warmth, insight and frequent wit.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “The author…[is] the biographer of James Brown we’ve all been waiting for…McBride’s true subject is race and poverty in a country that doesn’t want to hear about it, unless compelled by a voice that demands to be heard.”

    New York magazine

  • Kill ’Em and Leave is less concerned with the biographical minutiae of Brown’s life than it is with Brown’s world…traveling deep into Brown’s past to interview band mates, managers, family members, and friends, applying his unique, propulsive voice and insight as a musician to illustrate the world stacked against ‘The Godfather of Soul’ and the ways it changed in his wake.”


  • “Hoffman’s performance is fantastic as he grooves and funks to the material…McBride’s perspective is always present in Hoffman’s smooth narration. His accents and pacing deftly capture each individual who was part of Brown’s life…While the audio provides no actual music, both men’s stories are filled with passion and musical language. Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award.”


  • “South Carolina and Georgia, where the singer was born and raised respectively, come across as integral characters…This recommended work would be a wonderful companion to a full-blown Brown biography, such as Nelson George’s James Brown Reader, along with the other twelve titles ‘on deck’ that McBride mentions.”

    Library Journal

  • “The author focuses on the people around [James Brown] and the defining moments of his life outside the spotlight…An unconventional and fascinating portrait of Soul Brother No. 1 and the significance of his rise and fall in American culture.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award
  • A New York Times Editor’s Choice
  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month for April 2016
  • An AudioFile Editors’ Pick 
  • A New York Times Bestseller
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