James Brown’s doctor has claimed that the Godfather of Soul could have been murdered – 12 years after he signed his death certificate saying he died of natural causes.
Brown died in Atlanta on Christmas Day 2006, aged 73. The official cause of death was a heart attack and fluid in his lungs.
But Marvin Crawford, his doctor, said he has long suspected that the singer died under suspicious circumstances.
Brown’s condition “changed too fast,” the doctor told CNN as part of the network’s three-part documentary on the soul singer.
“He was a patient I would never have predicted would have coded,” he said, using a term to refer to heart trouble.
"But he died that night, and I did raise that question: What went wrong in that room?”
Dr Crawford and a dozen other witnesses, interviewed by CNN for the documentary, also believe there was more to Brown’s death than meets the eye.
When Brown was brought to the hospital on Dec 23, Dr Crawford thought Brown had pneumonia, which was widely reported after his death. He found signs of a mild heart attack. The doctor also found traces of cocaine in Brown’s urine, but was confident his patient would be fine.
“He improved fast,” he said. “Boom, boom, boom. By 5 o’clock on the 24th, I mean, he probably could have walked out of the hospital if he had wanted. But we wouldn’t let him go. We wouldn’t tell him to go yet.”
At 1 am on Christmas Day morning Dr Crawford was awakened by a telephone call from the hospital, telling him that Brown’s heart had stopped.
His personal manager, Charles Bobbit, who said he was the only one with him, heard Brown complain that his “chest was on fire” before the singer lay down “and died.”
By the time Dr Crawford got to the hospital room, the singer was dead.
Dr Crawford now suspects that his death was through an overdose, deliberate or accidental.
A nurse reportedly told a friend of Brown’s, Andre White, who brought him to the hospital, that “Brown had been visited by a male stranger she didn’t recognise.”
“After that visit, White says the nurse told him Brown’s vital signs rapidly declined,” the CNN report said, adding that the nurse pointed to “residue” left in his IV tube.
CNN heard from Brown’s associates that some believed the death of his third wife, Adrienne, was also suspicious.
She died in 1996, in botched plastic surgery, but Brown reportedly told friends he thought she was given a drug overdose.
Dr Crawford, who at the time believed Brown had willingly taken drugs in his hospital room, never went to the authorities.
Mr White, however, took a vial of Brown’s blood from a hospital nurse in the hope of proving that his friend had been murdered. It was not clear what happened to the blood.
Nick Ashton-Hart, managing director of Intrigue Music’s European territory, told CNN that weeks before his death, Brown revealed he wanted to separate from his two lawyers, Buddy Dallas and David Cannon. Cannon died in October.
Brown’s manager, Frank Copsidas, confirmed Mr Ashton-Hart’s story, adding: “He didn’t want a lot of people to know, because he was afraid Dallas and Cannon would try to stop him.”
The two had control over Brown’s finances, after he signed a will and estate plan in 2000 that gave three trustees control. Part of the agreement allowed the trustees to use up to 50 per cent of Brown’s income for “management purposes”, CNN claimed.
Cannon declined CNN’s request for an interview and died on Oct 1 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Several people have alleged in court documents that Mr Dallas conspired with Cannon to exploit Brown, though he was never criminally charged. Mr Dallas did not respond to The Telegraph’s request for comment.
The two lawyers’ control over Brown infuriated the singer, according to CNN, prompting Brown to slap Cannon several times at one point.