From what Mr. Brown told me, and as the wonderful new movie, "Get On Up" powerfully shows, whatever frustrations he was dealing with then couldn't begin to match the pain, rejection and daily obstacles he endured as boy and young man.
The Apollo Theater has transformed the lives of many singers that performed on its stage such as Stevie Wonder, James Brown and Lauryn Hill. But sometimes in a transcendent moment the lives of audience members are forever changed as well.
While star-struck white kids traditionally headed for Hollywood or Broadway, their black counterparts bucked the odds and beat a path for Harlem and the Wednesday-night amateur show at the Apollo Theater.
The audience was the power that made or broke careers. But it was much more than that. It was the heart and soul of the African-American community, the embodiment of the spirit of Harlem -- the force that truly made the Apollo great.
Harlem's legendary Apollo Theater celebrates its 80th anniversary this year. It is bursting with music, theater and dance, and it looks marvelous, thanks to millions in renovations and upgrades -- an appropriate state for this iconic American cultural institution.
At a time when "downtown" white venues were off limits to blacks, the Apollo certified success for African-American performers. And it has been at the forefront of the latest trends in the black community.
One of my very first jobs in New York City was working at the box office at The Joyce Theater. Ballet Hispanico performed that season. The company danced Good Night Paradise by Ramon Oller, and I was totally taken away. It swept me off my feet.