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The James Brown Mystery


A strange phone call reveals a question from the grave – was The Godfather of Soul murdered? Almost 40 years ago, a songwriter found herself in musician James Brown’s inner circle. The relationship would nearly destroy her career. Decades later, she’s trying to solve the mystery of James Brown's death…and her own life. When she makes a call to CNN reporter Thomas Lake, the two stumble into a world of secrets, intimidation, and suspected foul play. read less

Our Editor's Take

To fans, he's the Godfather of Soul, the Hardest Working Man in Show Business. To musicians, he's the most sampled artist of all time. The James Brown Mystery podcast reveals a complicated person in a complex world. People may remember that James Brown died at the end of 2006. He was 73, and heart failure was the reported cause, so it seemed sad but unremarkable. There was no autopsy and no investigation. No foul play appeared to have occurred, until now.

Thomas Lake hosts this eight-part true crime podcast. A CNN Digital senior writer, Lake has written for both online and print publications. He authored the book Unprecedented: The Election That Changed Everything. Lake started The James Brown Mystery in 2017 because a stranger contacted him. This woman told him that Brown did not die the way the media projected.

The podcast's story begins when the circus singer, Jacque Hollander, calls and texts Lake several times. Lake had written a story about Brown's son-in-law Darren Lumar. When Hollander read Lake's story, she decided to contact him. What she said was compelling enough to convince Lake to meet her.

Lake met with Hollander, who told him she had worked with Brown. They had a complicated relationship, but said that Brown had confided in her. Brown had spent much of his life in fear of the federal government. "If I can calm a riot, I can start one," Brown told Hollander. He believed the FBI and the CIA had been watching him since 1968. The night after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination, there was a concert in Boston. Brown kept the crowd peaceful, and people took notice. But were Brown's political views to put him at risk?

Through this podcast, Hollander and Lake work together to learn the truth about Brown's death. Their quest becomes perilous. Powerful people make it clear that they do not want this mystery solved. True crime listeners may appreciate the story in The James Brown Mystery podcast.

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