Between 1967 and 1974, the Godfather turned soul into funk. Flanked by the grooviest musicians of the day, James Brown orchestrated a soundtrack to changes in American society. And everyone jumped aboard the Sex Machine!

The late 1960s saw a move away from the optimism of soul music. The Motown label had been able to create, shape and sculpt the music of this smiling America, where the done thing was to sing one love song after another. But African-Americans weren't satisfied with an idyllic vision that they couldn't believe in for a moment; they demanded a new sound. A more aggressive sound. More rhythmical. More in tune with the new social reality. Black music for a black audience. James Brown would throw them the funk bomb they wanted. For extremists, James had too much business with the white man. But black audiences couldn't have cared less! For sure, James was black and proud, but he wasn't especially interested in what the Black Panthers were selling. For him, the positions he took and the people he worked with were enough to get a message across: his own. He shook white hands, ate at their table (President Johnson invited him to the White House on 8 May 1968) but he would never play the Uncle Tom. That was the source of the man's power and enigma. It was this independence that saw him winning on both fronts: neither a Panther, nor an Uncle Tom. What made this autonomy possible was the Godfather's wealth and success. A record label, a restaurant chain (James Brown's Gold Platter), radio stations (two in 1968: WGYW-AM at Knoxville, Tennessee, and WRDW and Augusta, Georgia), James Brown was a one-man business machine and didn't hide it. On the contrary. Black pride, setting an example, encouraging other African-Americans to do the same. He was a voice, a business, a model. Such was his aura that on the night of Martin Luther King's death on 4 April 1968, WGBH broadcast his Boston Garden concert live, to calm spirits still reeling from the murder. A few months later, Thomas Barry would write the famous line in Look Magazine: "Is James Brown the most important black man in America? "