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.