Music

James Brown's Friends and Family Suspect the Music Legend Was Murdered

A new report raises questions about the Godfather of Soul's 2006 death.
IMAGE Neale Haynes
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James Brown's friends and family suspect that the Godfather of Soul was murdered, according to a new, three-part report from CNN. At least 13 people close to the late singer say they want an autopsy or a criminal investigation of his death.

Among the skeptics is Dr. Martin Crawford, who signed Brown's death certificate at an Atlanta hospital in 2006. Crawford told CNN that he never believed Brown died of natural causes.

"He changed too fast," Crawford said. "He was a patient I would never have predicted would have coded. ... But he died that night, and I did raise that question: What went wrong in that room?"

James Brown on the red carpet of the Grammy Awards in 2005, a year before his death. IMAGE: Getty
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Brown officially died of a heart attack and fluid in the lungs on Christmas 2006 at the age of 73, but his friend Andre White and others have alleged that Brown was murdered, according to CNN.

The three-part series also delves into the death of Brown's third wife, Adrienne Brown, in 1996. Authorities in California determined at the time that there was no foul play in her death when recovering from plastic surgery, but friends believe she was also murdered.

James Brown with his wife, Adrienne Brown, in 1994. According to a new CNN report, Adrienne's friends believe she was murdered. IMAGE: Getty
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As the CNN report reads:

At least three other people believe the death of Adrienne Brown was not an accidental overdose, despite what the authorities said in 1996. There are legitimate questions about James Brown’s death that can only be answered by an autopsy and a criminal investigation. And there is a disturbing pattern of similarities between Adrienne Brown’s death and James Brown’s death 11 years later. I found the doctor with whom Jacque claimed to have spoken, the one who treated James Brown at a hospital in Atlanta before his death. Much to my surprise, he agreed to an interview. He told me he doubted Brown had died of natural causes. He suspected that Brown died of an overdose, accidental or otherwise. He said he wanted an autopsy all along.

Crawford said that in the hours after Brown's death he recommended an autopsy, but Brown's daughter Yamma Brown declined. Yamma Brown did not offer an explanation to CNN when questioned about the autopsy. CNN also asked another daughter, Denna Brown Thomas, about allegations that Brown's crypt is empty, but she would not confirm or deny this claim.

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You can read CNN's three-part series—which also delves into Brown's history of violence against women—in full here.

This story originally appeared on Esquire.com.

* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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Matt Miller
Matt Miller is the Associate Culture Editor for Esquire.com
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