Extended Audio Sample

Download The One: The Life and Music of James Brown Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The One: The Life and Music of James Brown Audiobook, by R. J. Smith Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (177 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: R. J. Smith Narrator: Kevin R. Free Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: July 2012 ISBN: 9781464008313
Regular Price: $29.99 Add to Cart
— or —
FlexPass™ Price: $10.95$5.95$5.95 for new members!
Add to Cart learn more )

Senior editor at L.A. Magazine, RJ Smith saw his first book, The Great Black Way, win the coveted California Book Award. With The One, Smith profiles one of the 20th century’s most innovative musical icons, the Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown. Drawing on extensive research and captivating interviews, Smith chronicles Brown’s rise from abject poverty to the pinnacle of fame, while also detailing Brown’s work as a civil rights activist and entrepreneur.n Download and start listening now!


Quotes & Awards

  • “[A] showstopper. This book’s sparkle speaks for itself, as does Mr. Smith’s ability to take on his screaming, moaning, kinetically blessed, unbeatably shrewd subject.”

    New York Times

  • “Revealing and incisive…This bio should be a cornerstone of soul-music-leterature collections.”


  • “Smith never loses the beat.”

    Los Angeles Magazine

  • “The imperatives of biography are to record, to correct, and to carve out historical significance, and Smith’s lively account succeeds on all three fronts.”


  • New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Nonfiction, 2012
  • A 2012 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee for Biography

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lee | 2/13/2014

    " Well written biography about a truly odd man who changed music forever. Smith did his homework and seems to have interviewed most of the major players, and truly understands the importance and contradictions of his subject. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bob | 2/7/2014

    " Very readable and comprehensive bio of the G of S. I nice quick read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Graham Davis | 2/3/2014

    " One of the best bios I've read in years - music or otherwise. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Maureen | 1/20/2014

    " This is one of those books that was clearly a labor of love. I don't know how many years it took Smith to research it, but he did a tremendous job. James Brown's story is not an easy one to tell: it begins with a childhood that could serve as an example of that famous Nietzsche quote about that which does not kill you makes you stronger. Born in Barnwell, South Carolina, Brown's childhood took him from one side of the "Georgialina" side to the other. After his mamma Susie ran off when he was four years old, he and his daddy Joe eventually ended up in Augusta, GA, which would be Brown's hometown for the rest of his life. They lived with his aunt Honey, who ran a boardinghouse/bordello and sold bootleg whiskey. Aunt Honey and other aunts took care of him there. He was subjected to beatings by many of the adults in his life: once even being put into a croker sack and hung up on a wall and beaten with a belt. There is some evidence that Susie came back for a time, but she fared little better than James did when it came to beatings. This is where JB learned about men beating women: an issue that would arise numerous times in his adult life. There were other, more positive things James Brown learned living on the Terry (the African-American section of Augusta), though. He learned to be tough so he could survive on the streets. He also learned a tremendous work ethic, which would serve him well later in life. Before he was sixteen, he had at least seven jobs, including picking cotton and racking balls at a pool hall. Because he was small, he learned to be alternately charming and threatening. He was always getting into trouble, but along the way he made friendships that would last a lifetime. I heard stories repeated within these pages that I had heard before from people who worked with JB. Also, I learned so much I did not know about the Godfather of Soul. Truly, he was The Hardest Working Man in Show Business. The last time I saw him was in the seventies in NYC. He opened for P-Funk in a ballroom that I have since forgotten the name of. Even though he could not hit the high notes or do splits any more, he gave Bootsy, Junie and the gang a run for their money when it came to out-and-out stage presence. James Brown was never very easy to love, but he always had my admiration for his determination to go his own way. Plus, I cannot imagine life without his music. It has been a part of my personal soundtrack so long, it is embedded in my soul. As for the title, As he once explained it: "The One" is derived from the Earth itself, the soil, the pine trees of my youth. And most important, it's on the upbeat - ONE two THREE four - not on the downbeat, one TWO three FOUR that most blues are written in. Hey, I know what I'm talking about! I was born to the downbeat, and I can tell you without question there is no pride in it. The upbeat is rich, the downbeat is poor. Stepping up proud only happens on the aggressive 'One," not the passive Two, and never on lowdownbeat. In the end, it's not about music - it's about life. One more favorite JB quote: Money won't change you, but time will take you out. My advice to you, dear reader, is to Get Up Offa That Thing and get this book immediately. It is very highly recommended. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Aaron | 1/1/2014

    " As a huge James Brown fan, I found this book to be a phenomenal read. Reading about James' upbringing, you could see why he was so driven to be somebody special. James was a complex individual,and the author did a great job showing both sides of J.B.(the woman abuser and PCP addict, as well as the generous side too). Highly recommended and complete biography of one of the most important and iconic figures in 20th century music. His influence will continue to be felt forever. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nora Flaherty | 11/21/2013

    " It could have had more about the later years, which seemed a bit rushed, but the early years are beautifully done. This is the sort of thing that would make a great enhanced eBook with audio and video clips interspersed. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Matthew | 11/3/2013

    " Made me want to get on my "Good Foot" and dance! Amazing life story! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kate | 10/8/2013

    " Parts of this book were great but other parts just had too much detail for me. I started and stopped reading this book four or five times before I finished it. That being said, I'm glad I read the book and appreciate it for being so obviously well researched and thoughtful. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tony Aguilar | 9/9/2013

    " I have always been a fan of James Brown. This book provides insight into what was a highly successful yet turbulent life. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Geoff | 9/4/2013

    " This book does not sugar-coat the legend himself at all. This is warts and all. Behind the face of every genius lives a madman. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kayne | 6/17/2013

    " This book covers James Brown's entire chaotic life. Sheer determination and energy are at least two qualities that define the reasons behind the success of James Brown. What a man! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Spenser | 1/28/2013

    " Economical biography. Well written and researched but left me wanting more, especially in regards to recording and composing. I guess it is always good to want more rather than being exhausted/bored/overwhelmed. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Drlee1222 | 1/15/2013

    " Thoroughly enjoyed this bio, on one if the world's greatest performers. Smith captures the history and the historiographic elements of Brown's life. I couldn't help but occasionally turn on my iPod and have James and the JB's thumping in my ears as I read the book. Really well done. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mark | 9/13/2012

    " Pretty great, though a tad overwritten at points. Some great stories from everyone except the enigmatic man in the center, who is still a mystery after all is said and done. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Seth | 9/3/2012

    " Actually three and a half, I wanted it to go more in depth into the music. Overall, glad I read it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Hannah Notess | 6/15/2012

    " Hm...James Brown was not a good person. However his life was definitely interesting. I really appreciated how this book placed the man and his music in historical context. "

Write a Review
What is FlexPass?
  • Your first audiobook is just $5.95
  • Over 90% are at or below $12.95
  • "LOVE IT" guarantee
  • No time limits or expirations
About the Author

R.J. Smith has been a senior editor at Los Angeles magazine, a contributor to Blender, a columnist for The Village Voice, a staff writer for Spin, and has written for GQ, The New York Times Magazine, and Men’s Vogue. His first book, The Great Black Way: L.A. in the 1940s and the Lost African-American Renaissance, was a Los Angeles Times bestseller and recipient of a California Book Award. He lives in Los Angeles.

About the Narrator

Kevin R. Free is an audiobook narrator and winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award. Known for his work with young-adult novels, he has read titles by Rick Riordan, Walter Dean Myers, and Joe Haldeman. In 2011 he was named a Best Voice in Young Adult and Fantasy from AudioFile magazine for his narration of Myers’ The Cruisers: Checkmate.