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Last Updated: Friday, 4 May 2007, 09:00 GMT 10:00 UK
Brown's family in lyrics protest
Rev Al Sharpton and Brown's daughter Deanna Brown
Rev Sharpton demanded music companies take action
Family and friends of the late soul singer James Brown have used what would have been his 74th birthday to protest over derogatory language in music.

Campaigner the Rev Al Sharpton led a rally of 400 people through New York to the offices of major music labels Sony, Warner, Universal and Time Warner.

The rally called for an industry curb on sexist and racist insults in music.

Brown, who died in December, influenced a generation of musicians with his high energy performances.

Explicit lyrics

The issue of acceptable language was highlighted when radio DJ Don Imus called a female basketball team "nappy-headed hos" on his show last month. He was later sacked by US television and radio network CBS.

James Brown
Brown died in December 2006

Days later hip-hop pioneer Russell Simmons called for the words "bitch," "ho" and "nigger" to be banned by the recording industry.

Rev Sharpton said: "We're saying there must be one standard. You can't have different standards for different people.

"Once we finish with the record companies, we must deal with the HBOs (TV networks) and others."

Warner Music Group (WMG) said in a statement: "We take issues regarding the role of women and minorities in society very seriously.

"We edit explicit lyrics, including those that are the focus of the current public debate, from content."

Brown's family echoed Mr Sharpton's message later at a private gathering at the Apollo Theater, where thousands had gathered to pay their respects to the singer shortly after he died.

"How did we get from 'Say it loud, I'm black and I'm proud,' to where we are today?" said his daughter Deanna Brown Thomas, referring to her father's famous lyrics.

Brown died of heart failure in Atlanta while being treated for pneumonia in hospital.

His hits, such as I Got You (I Feel Good) and Papa's Got a Brand New Bag inspired generations of soul, funk, disco, rock and rap artists.

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