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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 Audiobook, 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: April 2016 ISBN: 9780147522771
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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 feat of intrepid journalistic fortitude…Readers will be grateful for everything he has exposed here—the good and the bad, much of it hitherto unknown.”

    USA Today

  • “A gorgeously written piece of reportage that gives us glimpses of Brown’s genius and contradictions.”

    O, The Oprah Magazine

  • “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

  • “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

  • “You won’t leave this hypnotic book without feeling that James Brown is still out there, howling.”

    Boston Globe

  • “McBride provides something lacking in most of the books about James Brown: an intimate feeling for the musician, a veracious if inchoate sense of what it was like to be touched by him.”


  • “McBride provides an invaluable service to the history of R&B.”

    Los Angeles Review of Books

  • 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.”


  • “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
  • A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2016
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About the Author
Author James McBride

James McBride is an accomplished musician and National Book Award–winning author of the American classic The Color of Water and the bestsellers Song Yet Sung and Miracle at St. Anna, which was turned into a film by Spike Lee. A graduate of Oberlin College, he has a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. He also holds several honorary doctorates and is a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University.

About the Narrator

Dominic Hoffman is a Los Angeles–based actor of stage, screen, and television. He has appeared in such television shows as The ShieldNYPD Blue, and The Jamie Foxx Show. He attended the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art as well as the American Conservatory Theater.