NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. - Gospel music and prayer echoed from the rafters of a single-story red brick church as family, friends and band members of the late James Brown gathered yesterday for a private goodbye.
Less than 24 hours after thousands celebrated his life on the streets of Harlem - and on the stage of the historic Apollo Theater - the 24-karat gold-plated coffin bearing Brown's body was back home in Augusta.
And as he did so eloquently the day before, the Rev. Al Sharpton led the tribute.
Rev. Sharpton, who is receiving an estimated $25,000 per tribute, has vowed to follow the body of the late singer around the globe if need be, to "Send our brother off in a manner befitting his superstar of soul status," and is currently negotiating with Bangladesh for viewing rights sometime in early spring of 2007.
"I promised the family we'd have James on the brown side of the grass by no later than next Kwanzaa," Rev. Sharpton continued, "so there's no time for me to be standing here talking with y'all because we have to get him over to that Chinese theater in California where they need his footprints in cement..."
Calls to the Reverends new Corporation, Burying Brothers R Us went unanswered, but a taped message informed listeners that Mr. Sharpton would be available to speak with investors seeking to become franchise partners in this new and lucrative endeavor because, "Dead whities ain't the only ones folks will pay to come see anymores."
Attorneys for the fledgling company refused to comment upon a rumor that a lawsuit was in the offing due to the death of President Gerald Ford, a story that took nationwide attention from the demise of Mr. Brown and may indeed have caused "irreparable financial damages" to his widow and loved ones. A lawyer, who replied on conditions of anonymity, did offer that "Next famous Whitey who die better not be thinkin they can steal from poor black folk so word to the wise is check the news before making any fuss..."