No singer had more soul, funk or fire in front of an audience than James Brown. When he died on Christmas day 2006, the world lost one of the 20th century’s most influential figures in arts and entertainment.
The day of his death was also the beginning of a series of legal disputes over the estate, involving probate court, copyright law and family. According to a recent Forbes article, there are no signs that the skirmishes will be resolved in 2019.
One of the several enduring disputes over the soul legend’s estate revolves around Tomi Rae Hynie, who married Brown in 2001 and became his fourth wife. The problem is that when they married, Hynie was still married to someone else – she had never divorced Javed Ahmed, who she married in 1997.
Under South Carolina law, where Brown’s estate has been litigated, the Brown-Hynie marriage was invalid.
Take a deep breath, because it gets stranger: Ahmed was already married when he wed Hynie. So it could be that the Ahmed-Hynie marriage was invalid, and that therefore the Brown-Hynie marriage was legitimate.
There are some Brown heirs on both sides of the question of whether Brown and Hynie were legally wed.
Though Hynie had the marriage to Ahmed annulled in 2004, her relationship with Brown was rapidly deteriorating. He was seeking an annulment and she had filed for divorce. But Hynie claims to this day that she and the Godfather of Soul reconciled and were together until his death.
We will have more on the fascinating stories that swirl around the James Brown estate in a future post.