R.J. Smith on the godfather of soul, James Brown [video]

"The amazing thing about James Brown, for me," says R.J. Smith, "is you can't figure him out." That's not uncommon for a music journalist, but it reveals just how complex Brown was -- Smith was his biographer.

Smith, the author of 2012's "The One: The Life and Music of James Brown," dropped by our video booth at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books to talk about his book and about James Brown, the godfather of soul.

"He was a civil rights arbiter, and he was a Republican," Smith tells L.A. Times features editor Alice Short. "He was friend of Strom Thurmond's and of Martin Luther King's." Smith talked to Brown's friends, family, and even enemies to try to get the full picture.


Smith, a recent transplant from Los Angeles to Cincinatti, explains where he found creative inspiration in this city he no longer calls home. For more about what Smith and what he learned about James Brown, click on the video above.


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