Legendary singer James Brown, incarcerated in South Carolina since December 1988, was released on parole yesterday. And already he's planning a big return to the stage.
"Right now, he's going into hiatus for about two weeks," said Larry Fridie, executive director of On the Potomac Productions. That Washington-based company is organizing a James Brown comeback concert, tentatively set for July 13 at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. The "Godfather of Soul" talked by phone last week to rap superstar M.C. Hammer, inviting him to perform.
The 57-year-old entertainer has also been approached by European and Japanese concert promoters.
"I've got more tours than I've ever had in my life," Brown told reporters yesterday after his parole hearing in Columbia, S.C. "I just need more James Browns so I can keep up with them.
"This episode has really reopened a lot of people's eyes about James Brown, and it reopened James Brown's eyes about things he has to do for himself as well as other people," Brown said.
On Sept. 24, 1988, Brown burst in on an insurance seminar taking place next to his Augusta, Ga., office. Shotgun in hand, he accused people of using his private restroom. Brown later led police on a high-speed chase in his Ford pickup, criss-crossing the Georgia-South Carolina line. A drug test after his arrest showed traces of PCP.
Brown was convicted of failing to stop for the police -- a felony in South Carolina -- and two counts of assault "of a high and aggravated nature" for trying to run down officers. He received a six-year sentence for failure to stop. Tacked on to that were five years of probation for the assault counts.
Brown's parole will last until Oct. 23, 1993. Then he will begin serving the five years of probation. As part of his parole, Brown will be subjected to random urine testing, said his lawyer, Reginald D. Simmons.
The parole board hasn't yet determined how often Brown will have to report to his parole officer. But Simmons said he expects the board to be flexible enough to allow him short trips abroad. "They understand that Mr. Brown is an entertainer and it's necessary for him to travel overseas," he said.
"Throughout this ordeal, I think James Brown's popularity has increased," said Thomas A. Hart Jr., president of On the Potomac, which has already produced and marketed "James Brown: The Man, the Music & the Message," a video documentary. "There has been a general sentiment throughout the world that a man who has done so much, not just for the entertainment business but for the world, should not have received a six-year sentence to start with."
During an interview last September in Aiken, S.C., where for the past 10 months he has been in a work-release program, Brown attributed his troubles to years of police harassment. But he also seemed strangely at peace with his incarceration. "I really needed the rest," he said. "I really needed the rest."
Since his first hit single in 1956, "Please, Please, Please," Brown has had more than 110 songs on the charts. His brand of stripped-down funk has inspired a generation of rappers, and his electrifying stage work has influenced such performers as Michael Jackson and Prince.
Now, in addition to touring, Brown intends to record an album of songs written since his conviction.