Their Friendship Was An Unexpected Powerful Bond Of Black Brotherhood

james brown singing into a microphone
Briona Lamback
April 26, 2023

Thousands mourned James Brown’s death. The iconic “Godfather of Soul” had a musical career that spanned six decades and multiple genres from gospel to funk. 

While many gathered to pay their respects, an unexpectedly close friend was especially devastated — the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Most don’t know Al Sharpton was close friends with James Brown. The friendship of a reverend and rockstar may seem unlikely to some, but their bond was powerful. 

A 2006 report insists that they met because, while watching from backstage, Sharpton was “so entranced by [Mr. Brown’s performance] that he accidentally followed him on stage.” Another account insists they met following the car accident death of Brown’s son, Teddy.

Teddy was a part of Sharpton’s youth outreach organization, and Brown performed a memorial concert and donated the proceeds to Sharpton’s organization. 

Brown and Sharpton then developed a father-son relationship, “with Sharpton adopting Brown’s hairdo, his flamboyant style and even aspects of his radical politics.”

Sharpton even joined Brown for some of his tours, traveling city-to-city and spending time swapping life lessons concerning their careers and families.

Eventually, Sharpton fought during Brown’s court proceedings, including organizing a press conference and participating in a protest.

Brown and Sharpton’s bond reminds us why father-son and mentor-mentee relationships are essential to building strong Black communities. Though they may have been an unlikely pair, their strengths powerfully complemented each other.

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