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CNN Podcast Examines If Soul Music Legend James Brown Was Murdered

CNN Podcast Examines If Soul Music Legend James Brown Was Murdered

Brown

Photo caption: James Brown performs in Edinburgh, Scotland, July 6, 2005. (AP /Matt Dunham)

On Christmas Day in 2006, the Godfather of Soul, legendary singer James Brown died at age 73 from congestive heart failure resulting from complications of pneumonia. His personal manager Charles Bobbit was at his bedside.

Many thought it was an uncomplicated end to a man who led a very complicated life, one filled with mega successes, a rise from poverty to stardom, bouts of a huge debt, drug abuse, marital woes, and even jail time. But then came rumors, years later, that Brown might have been murdered.

The rumors were strong enough for a new CNN podcast to dig deeper. 

CNN contributor Thomas Lake tackles the mystery in a new, three-part eight episodes podcast entitled “Lost in the woods with James Brown’s ghost: The Circus Singer and the Godfather of Soul.”

“One Tuesday afternoon in 2017, the phone rang at my desk in CNN Center. On the line was a woman who told me, ‘James Brown did not die the way they said he died. And I have proof of it.’ The caller’s name was Jacque Hollander. She was a singer for the Carson & Barnes Circus,” Lake wrote recently in an article for CNN.

According to Hollander, she had evidence to back up all her claims. Lake, after several persistent calls from Hollander, went to meet with the woman. Lake eventually published an investigative series on Brown’s death in 2019 but felt “there was more work to do.” Thus, the podcast.


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Lake has interviewed more than 200 people—including the doctor who signed Brown’s death certificate and a friend who claimed to have taken a vial of Brown’s blood, hoping it would prove Brown was murdered. 

Lake even sued the CIA in 2021 through CNN under the Freedom of Information Act to demand the release of confidential documents. Brown, who was heavily involved in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, was the subject of investigations by both the CIA and FBI. 

Lake says the podcast uncovers secrets, mysterious deaths, and more.

There have long been rumors that Brown did not die a natural death. 

According to a 2020 article in Essence, the doctor who signed the death certificate told CNN he always wondered, “What went wrong in that room?” A prosecutor also reexamined Brown’s 2006 death after meeting Hollander.

Dr. Marvin Crawford told CNN he felt Brown “changed too fast” when he died at an Atlanta hospital on December 25, 2006.

“He was a patient I would never have predicted would have coded,” Crawford said in 2017. “But he died that night, and I did raise that question: What went wrong in that room.”

Crawford suggested it was possible that Brown’s death was caused by a toxic substance. Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard Jr. directed investigators to conduct interviews and evaluate relevant information to determine if a full-scale death investigation should be launched.

Hollander told Howard that she believed that Brown and his third wife Adrienne, who died in 1996 while recovering from plastic surgery, were each murdered. 

Others besides Hollander were also suspicious. Lake’s previous investigative series found 13 people who wanted either an autopsy or a criminal investigation to be done. They included his widow Tomi Rae Brown, son Daryl Brown, manager Charles Bobbit, and close friend the Rev. Al Sharpton

Photo caption: James Brown performs in Edinburgh, Scotland, July 6, 2005. (AP /Matt Dunham)