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Posted by By Sun News Publishing on 2008/08/05 | Views: 2552 |


18 months after his death, James Brown still lies in a makeshift mausoleum in his daughter’s back garden. Meanwhile, four ex-wives, 16 grandchildren and even his butler are fighting over his £50 million legacy

18 months after his death, James Brown still lies in a makeshift mausoleum in his daughter’s back garden. Meanwhile, four ex-wives, 16 grandchildren and even his butler are fighting over his £50 million legacy

HE was laid to rest, all 5fth 6" of him, in his trademark electric-blue stage suit and silver platform heels. But the late James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, is not resting in peace – far from it. Over a year and a half on, Brown’s body has not even been properly buried.

It is entombed in a street casket, painted gold and set in an 8ft by 8ft unprepossessing marble crypt, in his daughters Deanna’s garden in south Carolina, on the edge of the Savannah River.
One old friend of the singer, once described as ‘the most important black man in America’, calls the decision to leave his body in a makeshift mausoleum ‘nothing short of scandalous… it’s something you’d to a dog’, while one of Brown’s former lawyers, Alfred ‘Buddy’ Dallas also claims that the crypt is not refrigerated – and no reporter has been allowed close enough to check what state the body is in.

There is just one reason Brown’s body is not at peace in the ground: money. His £50 million fortune, the £2.5 million a year in royalties that flow from his 800 songs, not to mention the proceeds from the sale of his 60-acre, riverfront estate on Beech Island, have doomed his coffin to lie in his daughter’s sweltering backyard. A bitter battle has broken out among his extended family over his will.

And that’s no small group, as it includes his ‘widow’ (who may never even have legally been his wife), no fewer than 14 people claiming to be his children, 16 grandchildren, a ‘sister’ (who almost certainly isn’t), his former butler and more than 30 lawyers – all determined to get their share of the spoils.
Not one member of the family is prepared to allow Brown to rest in peace. Many believe they’re fighting because they want to make the singer’s last resting place like Elvis Presley’s home, Graceland – a shrine that attracts 600,000 visitors a year and makes a fortune.

As a result, in stark contrast to his old friend and contemporary, Elvis – whose death was marked by national mourning, but not a moment’s dissent about his legacy – Brown is doomed to spend months, if not years, in that marble crypt, while the tug-of-war over his money continues.
This is all the more tragic because one of the principal bequests of Brown’s will was to set up a trust fund to help ‘financially needy’ students in Georgia and South Carolina, be they black or white.
But instead of helping the sons and daughters of the poor go to university, Brown’s legacy is fuelling an ugly soap opera: s-x, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll – as well as copious amounts of domestic violence, promiscuity and broken promises on the side.

The story comes complete with a supporting cast of two surviving ex-wives, bickering creditors, endless former mistresses, all set against a background of Brown’s two terms of imprisonment (one for armed robbery, the other for fleeing from police while carrying a handgun), not to mention his addiction to painkillers.
No surprise, then, that the award-winning director Spike Lee is preparing a biography about Brown’s life. But in the months to come, the world will digest every aspect of his extraordinary life as the battle unfolds in an American courtroom.

There are already rumours of vast sums of money buried in the woods surrounding his estate in South Carolina, suitcases stuffed with hundred dollar bills that have mysteriously disappeared, and millions of dollars siphoned out of Brown’s trust funds.
The public fascination with Brown’s life is steadily gathering pace. Last week in New York, 317 items from his estate, including a set of belts – each with a silver buckle fashioned to display his famous description of himself, ‘S-x Machine’ – fetched more than £420,000 at auction.

One fan paid almost £25,000 for the black satin cape Brown appeared in on stage, and another £16,000 for the medical bracelet that identified him as a diabetic allergic to penicillin.
This money was used to pay off a string of legal bills and keep the taxman at bay.
What lies behind this grisly battle: The story begins in August 2000, when Brown – then aged 67, but still managing to sleep with dozens of different women – formally confirmed a will he’d signed a year earlier.
The will divided his estate into three parts – the first was left to his six adult children, his two surviving ex-wives (the third ex-wife died in 1996) and two other former mistresses. The second part went to educate his eight grandchildren, and the third, by far the largest, part was to establish a trust fund to educate disadvantaged children.

Brown insisted in the will: ‘I have intentionally faulted to provide for any other relatives or other persons.’
One significant person who was left out of Brown’s will was his fourth ‘wife’, Tomi Rae Hynie, a former backing singer, who Brown married in December 2001. It later emerged that their marriage was invalid as Hynie was already married at the time – to a Pakistani man, in what she alleges now was a scam to allow him to enter the U.S legally. This marriage was annulled in 2004, although Brown never legally re-married Hynie after that.

Now Hynie – whose son, named James Brown II, was born in 2001, even though Brown insisted he’d had a vasectomy in 1984 – is claiming she is an ‘omitted spouse’ under American law and therefore entitled to ‘at least a third’ of his estate.
Hynie even claims that the singer revised his will to reflect that, but that this new will was ‘shredded’ after his death, when she was locked out of his Beech Island mansion.
In the wake of Hynie’s claim, an American judge ordered that seven-year-old James Brown II should undergo a DNA test to establish who his father was. The family are still waiting for the results.

But Hynie and her son certainly aren’t the only relatives claiming a slice of the singer’s fortune. Five of Brown’s six adult children named in his will as beneficiaries are also contesting its provisions, claiming Brown was tricked into signing it by his lawyer, Buddy Dallas, his accountant, David Cannon, and friend Alred Bradley – whom he’d appointed trustees of the fund for disadvantaged children. The five children allege that the trust was only structured to bring the three men enormous commissions – and there is no denying that Cannon has since been ordered by a court to repay almost £400,000 in ‘misappropriated funds’ and threatened with six months in jail if he fails to do so.
Only one of the six adult children, the eldest, Terry Brown, and his two sons, want Brown’s will to stand as it was written.

But the soap opera doesn’t end here. For no one can say with any accuracy how many children the man who called himself the S-x Machine actually had.
There’s little doubt that Brown had three wives before Hynie and those three wives bore him nine children; five sons and four daughters. Brown’s eldest son, Teddy, died in a car accident in June 1973, at the age of 19.
But there’s also no denying that Brown had s-x with a great many women during his 50 years on the road as a rock star. His buttler would give him Viagra before every stage show – ‘because he thought it gave him extra energy.

Brought up by his aunt, Honey in an Augusta brothel – his mother walked out on his father when he was four – Brown liked to make love, but wasn’t keen on the preliminaries. Says one friend: ‘He would let one of his staff make small talk with the girl and then ask: "She ready?’’’
Since his death, it’s emerged that in addition to his wives at least three other women bore him children – three daughters, LaRhonda, Cinnamon Nicole and Jeannette. LaRhonda, 45, a retired air hostess, has already claimed a share of the estate, and asked for 18 years in backdated child support – after taking a DNA test that proved there was a 99.99 percent probability she was Brown’s daughter.

Since then, the other two daughters have taken positive DNA tests and have also launched claims. Now four other young people have come forward to insist that they, too, are Brown’s children, even though, so far, they haven’t undergone DNA testing. But that has not prevented them hiring lawyers and launching claims against his estate.

Ironically, Brown told his friends that he wasn’t leaving any money to his children, saying: ‘Being my child is enough of an inheritance… they ain’t getting rich off my back. They ain’t getting a damn dime.’
The lawsuits don’t stop with his children, however. There’s also a claim from Fannie Brown Buford, a one-time backing singer in his band who calls herself James Brown’s sister and insists: ‘He always said I was his sister.’ She added: ‘When I find someone to pay for my story, I’m gonna tell the truth.

The truth is a moveable feast when it comes to James Brown. As the controversial pastor Reverend Al Sharpton, a friend of the singer who presided at his funeral, puts it: ‘All of us were consequential to his self-image.’ Charles Bobbit, his manager for 40 years, adds: ‘Mr. Brown was an exceptionally slick, conniving, brilliant man who made sure he was misunderstood.

But while some saw Brown as conniving, others saw him as naïve. Two court administrators in Augusta, Georgia (appointed by a judge to control the singer’s affairs after two of his trustees, Dallas and Bradley, resigned, and the third, Cannon, was accused of misappropriating funds) saw Brown as being manipulated.

In a suit against the trustees, the administrators claim Brown had ‘limited formal education and relied heavily upon his trusted legal and financial advisers’ so that – in consequence – he was tricked into the will that set up the trust.
There are also those who insist Brown was given to delusions. One girlfriend says he was crazy because of his drug habit, while others maintain he was being bugged by the government. Brown was also accused of domestic violence – stories of his shooting holes in fur coats he’d bought his wives when he was angry are the stuff of legend.

In 2005, a female TV producer, Jacque Hollander, who was acting as his publicist, claimed he’d raped her in a van while threatening her with a shotgun in 1988 – but a court threw out the case as it had occurred 17 years earlier and exceeded the time limit for convictions.
His third wife had him arrested four times in the 80s and 90s on charges of assault, and in 2004, Hynie also had Brown arrested after she alleged he’d pushed her to the floor and injured her. Brown pleaded guilty, but was not sentenced to imprisonment.
But the claimants on his estate don’t even end with his ex-wives, mistresses, victims, children or even grandchildren.

There is also his former butler, Roosevelt Royce Johnson, who says the singer promised him £1.2 million; Charles Bobbit, asking for unpaid fees; The Pullman Group – to whom Brown mortgaged his royalties in 1999 for £300,000 in unpaid fees.
Up to this moment, however, no one has had a penny from Brown’s will – and it seems certain that it will be years before anyone does.

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