‘I don’t wanna lose all my hair’ – James Brown rejected chemo when he had cancer

James Brown is renowned for exemplifying self-love and self-respect for his race in his 1968 empowering anthem “Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud“. Aside from his racial pride, the Godfather of Soul was also known for the love he had for his hair – whether styled in a natural Afro or straightened conk.

Even while battling prostate cancer in 2004, Brown remained focused on his iconic hair during his treatment, according to the New York Post.

“He was like, ‘I can’t do chemo, ’cause I don’t wanna lose all my hair.’ I mean, this was a real thing,” his daughter, Dr. Yamma Brown, recounts in the four-part A&E documentary. The documentary, “James Brown: Say It Loud,” premiered Monday.

“Thank God it was in the early stages enough that all he really needed was radiation. It was tough to see him go through that, but it was humbling.”

Despite facing health challenges including prostate cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure, the iconic R&B legend known as the Hardest Working Man in Show Business refused to slow down.

In the documentary executive-produced by Mick Jagger and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Brown expressed his desire to continue working rather than being treated delicately.

Even as his health declined leading up to his death in 2006, he remained committed to his holiday traditions of distributing turkeys for Thanksgiving and toys for Christmas to those in need.

Following hospitalization for pneumonia, the iconic R&B legend passed away at the age of 73 on Christmas Day in 2006.

“I was like, ‘Yo, that is the most epic exit of all time.’ Like, James Brown is such a star, ‘I want to take the one most iconic universal day and take it over,’ ” says Questlove. “Like, ‘Even Christmas don’t got nothing on me.’

Brown’s fixation on his hair was integral to his iconic persona, reflecting his meticulous attention to both appearance and performance. Unlike some Motown stars of the 1960s who sought to appeal to the “white gaze,” Brown epitomized black pride.

Dr. Sinead Young, a professor and psychologist, notes in the documentary “Say It Loud” that Brown embodied perfectionism and impeccable presentation.

“And he was curated in his own way. It wasn’t a company behind him saying, ‘You need to dress like this and do this.’ He was doing that himself.”

Brown’s unparalleled presentation encompassed not only his stylish attire but also his electrifying performances filled with funk. He maintained a strict standard of excellence, even going as far as fining his band members for any missed notes during his shows.

“He believed in perfection and that the audience should get what they paid for,” says his son Larry Brown.

“He was willing to do whatever it took to make sure that the perfection was there. He demanded it — and he got it.”

Stephen Nartey

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