You won’t see this in Get On Up…
James Brown’s Legs Were Amputated Amid Family Infighting Prior To Funeral
He was the Godfather of Soul, a music legend whose incendiary stage act over six decades inspired generations of performers from Mick Jagger to Michael Jackson.
But the story of James Brown, now immortalised by Jagger in a £25 million biopic, Get On Up, has become even more extraordinary in death.
Last night Brown’s widow Tomi Rae – the mother of his 13-year-old youngest child James Jnr – revealed for the first time the vicious battle over her husband’s £65 million fortune, how his corpse was dismembered amid a paternity row, and why his body has been moved 14 times since his death because of family feuding.
‘The movie gives a good depiction of my husband’s life but the drama that has unfolded since his death is more painful and outrageous than anything a scriptwriter could dream up,’ she said in an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday.
‘James would be spinning in his grave if he knew the hell I’d gone through over the past eight years.’
Brown died on Christmas Day 2006. He was 73. Tomi Rae says she has been left ‘virtually penniless’ ever since as Brown’s various children – legitimate and otherwise – lawyers, hangers-on and business associates all launched legal claims on his estate.
She says a will leaving half his fortune to her and the rest to a charitable foundation to help underprivileged children ‘mysteriously disappeared’ in the days following his death.
Brown’s other family rely on a will the singer signed in 2000, before he married Tomi Rae and before the birth of James Jnr. This will lists Brown’s six adult children as the beneficiaries.
‘He thought he had provided for me and Little Man, as he called our son. But every piece of scum and slime came crawling out of the woodwork the day he died,’ she said. ‘There have been lawsuits and countersuits… I know I will prevail eventually, but I’m in a living hell.’
Tomi Rae was just 25 when she became Brown’s backing singer. The genius behind hits including I Feel Good and Sex Machine was 64 and already three times divorced.
The pair wed in December 2001, when son James Jnr was six months old. But after Brown died, his other children – there are at least six and up to as many as nine, depending on who you believe (the number keeps rising as others come forward claiming he was their father) – challenged James Jnr’s legitimacy, claiming Brown had undergone a vasectomy in the 1980s.
A judge ordered a DNA test which confirmed Brown was James Jnr’s father. Tomi Rae’s eyes welled up as she recalled the episode: ‘They couldn’t do the normal DNA test because of all the embalming fluid in his body. So they had to cut off his legs to get to his bone marrow. I wept uncontrollably when I found out. My husband, the greatest dancer in the world, had his legs hacked off in death.’
But the macabre farce continued. The great soul singer’s body was moved 14 times in the six months after his death, ending up in a temporary grave in the garden of his eldest daughter Deanna’s home in Georgia.
‘That is the final insult to James,’ said Tomi Rae.
Tomi Rae, who was hired by Jagger to be a consultant for the new film, is now working with the Rolling Stones star and his team on a two-hour documentary which will tell the story of the battle over Brown’s estate.
SMH! There is a lot of back and forth on what the truth is with James’s money and family. Clearly he led an extremely interesting life to leave all this confusion behind.