From the Limousine, the King of Funk


We want the intent. Whatever happened basically to the ethnic man, it happened through trials and tribulations. There’s no intent to make them better. Martin Luther King—and Black Panthers organized to start riots. SNCC—the hate groups, whether it was the Panthers or whether it was the Klansmen, or whether it was they called the self-defense to come down and save our daughters here—the Panthers trying to get aboard. But what it ever came to, it was intent. The intent behind it is for better…

…said James Brown to New Yorker staff writer Philip Gourevitch one gray, June day in 2001, in a limousine, driving through Brown’s hometown, the slums of Augusta, Georgia.

Gourevitch describes Brown’s speech as “a gravelly, half-swallowed slur whose viscosity has increased through the decades, in lockstep with his pursuit of perfect dentistry.” Find the rest of the interview, and a sound clip of Brown’s wholly idiosyncratic speaking voice, here.

Casey Dayan is a Rumpus intern and musician. He is finishing up his undergraduate studies in literature and anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz where he is working on a memoir and trying to one-up Jeff Buckley. Find his twitter here, @caseydayan. Find his band, “Moo,” here. More from this author →