Friends and relatives gathered on what would have been James Brown’s 74th birthday Thursday to remember the soul singer — and question the direction of the music industry.
“How did we get from ’Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud,’ to where we are today?” said his daughter Deanna Brown Thomas, referring to her father’s famous lyrics.
Earlier Thursday, the Rev. Al Sharpton led a rally, calling on the music industry to own up to what he called racist and sexist language. Protesters marched through Manhattan to the headquarters of major music labels like Sony, Warner, Universal and Time Warner.
The assault on the music industry came less than a month after radio host Don Imus was fired for making racist and sexist comments.
Brown’s family echoed Sharpton’s message later Thursday at a private gathering at the Apollo Theater.
“We got to start taking care of our own people, we have to be accountable to our own people,” said Daryl Brown, lead guitarist of the 17-piece band the Soul Generals, which backed his father for two decades.
Thousands of fans gathered at the Harlem theater in December to pay their respects to the singer, whose 24-karat gold coffin was delivered to the theater in a white, horse-drawn carriage.
Brown, 73, died of heart failure in Atlanta while hospitalized for treatment of pneumonia. He was known for his high-energy performances, husky grunts and shimmying dance moves.
His hits, such as “I Got You (I Feel Good)” and “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” inspired generations of soul, funk, disco, rock and rap artists.