Tue, 08 Mar 2005


'Godfather of Soul' defends Michael Jackson

Michael Casey, Associated Press/Jakarta

Legendary soul singer James Brown said on Sunday that Michael Jackson was being "set up" in his child molestation trial and that the embattled performer should be touring tsunami-hit Asia rather than defending himself in a U.S. court.

Speaking to The Associated Press in Indonesia ahead of a concert on Sunday, the 71-year-old Godfather of Soul also claimed to be the root of modern music.

"All the music playing the last part of the 20th century was all James Brown," he said. "The 21st century is just James Brown period. Whether it's rap, hip hop, gospel, or country doesn't make no difference. They are all using my stuff and I'm glad because I've been able to bring something to music."

Brown -- famous for hits such as "Please, Please" and "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" -- said Jackson, who is fighting child molestation charges, should pray and he compared the performer's legal woes to his own. Brown spent time in jail in the 1980s and 1990s on drug and assault charges.

"Recognize that people do this ... They've been trying to do that to me all my life, trying to get something for nothing ... I think he's been set up like most entertainers. People think you have a lot of money," Brown said in the telephone interview.

He said Jackson should be in places like tsunami-ravaged Indonesia, rather than in a California courtroom.

"We need Michael. We need Michael out here entertaining," he said in his husky southern drawl. "Michael could have been great over here performing. His talent is very appealing and people know him. One day I'll be too old to travel and I'll want to see good entertainers (like him) spreading the good word."

Brown said he came to Indonesia in part to raise awareness about the Dec. 26 tsunami that killed more than 173,000 people in 11 countries around the Indian Ocean. At the first of his two concerts in Jakarta on Friday, he talked about need to help tsunami victims, adding that he and his wife Tommie Rae were considering sponsoring children orphaned by the disaster.

"I am someone who loves humanity and wants to do something about the injustices and to do something for the terrible tragedies in this world, like the tsunami," Brown said. "The tsunami was very heart-wrenching ... to see parents without their mothers and fathers, to see kids homeless ... so we gotta do something to help them."

Brown shrugged off talk of retirement and said he still has a role spreading love, tolerance and understanding through his music. After he returns to the United States, he said he will start a tour of South America.

"My problem is that they've been saying this to me for 35 years: 'When are you going to retire?"' he said. "Retire. Retire for what? What would I do? I made my name as a person that is helping.

"I'm like Moses in the music business. I want to do God's work and I want to make the world better and more peaceful. All those songs. Those millions of songs. Who is going to do them?"

In December, Brown successfully underwent surgery to treat prostate cancer, which came on the heels of a long battle with diabetes.

But he said he "feels good" and showed no ill effects during his 90-minute performance on Friday night. Flanked by a 13-piece band, Brown put on an inspiring performance in which he sang many of his hit songs, danced around the stage and joined his wife -- who is one of his backup singers -- in some soulful give and take.

In the interview, Brown also spoke about his problems with his 33-year-old wife. Last year, the singer pleaded guilty to pushing her to the floor and threatening to kill her.

"My wife and I have suffered enough," he said. "If you're going to be big and popular, you're going to have to take the fall if there is fall to be taken. I can take it. Let them say what they want. Whatever they say, she is mine and I'm hers."

GetAP 1.00 -- MAR 6, 2005 15:56:45