James Brown’s Death Under Investigation After Multiple People Raise Questions

There are also questions surrounding the death of the singer's third wife, Adrienne Brown.

A black-and-white photo from 1971 of a smiling James Brown,
Evening Standard / Getty Images

There are also questions surrounding the death of the singer's third wife, Adrienne Brown.

A new investigative series by CNN is raising questions about the death of late singer James Brown. At least 13 people who knew Brown say they have suspicions surrounding the singer’s passing on Christmas day in 2006. One of those 13 people is Dr. Marvin Crawford, who was the one to sign Brown’s death certificate at the Atlanta hospital he was checked into. While the official cause of death is listed as natural causes, Dr. Crawford says the details surrounding Brown’s passing leave him skeptical.

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

Brown, who was 73-years-old, was said to have died from a heart attack as well as fluid in his lungs. Now, many people who knew Brown — including his manager, his widow, his son, and multiple friends and associates — think that his cause of death may not be what it appears. The questions about his death could be answered by forensic investigators, but Brown’s daughter Yamma declined to have an autopsy performed despite Dr. Crawford’s recommendation. CNN says Yamma has yet to divulge why she made this decision.

CNN began investigating this case in 2017 after circus singer Jacque Hollander contacted a reporter alleging that Brown raped her in 1988. Hollander began collecting boxes of documents and tapes over a period of three decades, which the network examined. They also interviewed 140 people, traveled through nine states, and obtained tens of thousands of pages of police and court records as well as more than 1,300 pages of text messages from Hollander’s iPhone.

The network also began to investigate the death of Brown’s third wife, Adrienne. Adrienne died in 1996 while recovering from plastic surgery. While no foul play was discovered at the time, a retired police officer showed CNN a notebook that a confidential informant allegedly gave him in 2001. The police officer says he didn’t read the notebook until the network contacted him in 2017. The informant claims a doctor confessed to murdering Adrienne with a fatal drug overdose — a claim the doctor denies.

There are also rumors that Brown’s crypt was actually empty. The network questioned another daughter of Brown’s, Deanna Brown Thomas, who would not confirm or deny the rumors. Hollander’s collection of evidence combined with CNN’s own separate investigation certainly paints a confusing picture. The network’s new three-part series about the Godfather of Soul’s death is bringing suspicions back into the forefront.