By DOUG GROSS, Associated Press Writer 2 hours, 17 minutes ago
AUGUSTA, Ga. -
More than 8,500 James Brown fans filled an arena bearing his name Saturday in a final, joyful farewell to the singer that seemed as fitting for a civil rights leader as for "The Godfather of Soul."
Mourners returned to Brown's hometown to pay tribute to the musician, who some fans also considered a political figure.
"'I'm black and I'm proud' was the most influential black slogan of the 1960s," said fan Maynard Eaton, referring to the chorus of the Brown standard "Say It Loud."
We come to thank God for James Brown, because only God could have made a James Brown possible," said Sharpton, a longtime Brown confidant who also spoke at a boisterous ceremony Thursday at the famed Apollo Theater in New York and a private service Friday.
Brown, 73, died of heart failure Dec. 25 in Atlanta while hospitalized for treatment of pneumonia. Jesse Jackson said Saturday that Brown had "upstaged Santa on Christmas Day."
Michael Jackson, whose arrival sparked a roar from the crowd, bowed before the casket and shared a hug with Sharpton just as Brown's latest backup band, the Soul Generals, started to play.
"James Brown is my greatest inspiration," the pop star told mourners, adding that when he was a child, his mother would wake him, regardless of the hour, whenever Brown was on TV.
"When I saw him move, I was mesmerized," Jackson said. "I knew that's what I wanted to do for the rest of my life because of James Brown."
The service was followed by a private burial.
Brown's hits, such as "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag," inspired generations of soul, funk, disco, rock and rap artists.
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