BIRTH: May 3, 1933,
Barnwell, South Carolina, U.S.
DEATH:December 25, 2006,
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
james Joe Brown Jr. was an African-American singer, songwriter and dancer. He is considered to be the inventor of funk music. He is also called the “Godfather of Soul”. He was recognized as the “Hardest-Working Man in the Show Business”.
James Brown was born to Joe and Susie Brown on 3rd May, 1933. His mother left the family when
he was quite young. Brown moved to Augusta, Georgia to live with his Aunt Honey. He lived in poverty during the Great Depression. He worked odd jobs such as shining shoes and washing cars.
Brown was dismissed from school at the age of twelve due to “insufficient clothes”. He used to sing
in the church choir. His neighbors taught him drums, guitar and piano. He got arrested at the age of sixteen for stealing cars. In prison, he met Bobby Byrd, an aspiring R&B singer and pianist.
He was released from prison in less than four years. For two years he played sports such as boxing. He was also a semi-professional baseball player. In 1955, Bobby Byrd asked Brown to join his R&B vocal group, The Gospel Starlighters. It was renamed to the Famous Flames. They moved to Macon, Georgia and performed at nightclubs.
The Famous Flames played their demo tape of the song “Please, Please, Please” for King Records’ Ralph Bass who immediately signed them on in 1956. Their first single “Please, Please, Please” hit the R&B charts at number six. It sold about a million copies. In 1958, Brown moved to New York to keep his creative spark alive, while also working with The Flames, and released the song, “Try Me”. It became the number one song on R&B charts. It also acquired a place in Hot 100 Singles charts. His other major hits include “Lost Someone”, “Night Train” and “Prisoner of Love”.
He performed many shows in the 1950s and 60s. He used to perform five to six nights a week. This work ethic earned him the title of “The Hardest-Working Man in Show Business”. In 1963, he released a live concert album recorded at the Apollo Theatre. It was called ‘Live at the Apollo. It acquired the number two position on the pop charts. It is seen as Brown’s greatest commercial success and stayed on the charts for sixty-six weeks.
His 1966 song, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”. created a new music genre of funk. This genre became the precursor to hip-hop music. His song “Cold Sweat” is also considered a pure funk song.
In 1964, his live album ‘Pure Dynamite! Live at the Royale’ ranked in the pop charts for twenty- two weeks.
James Brown was also referred to as “Soul Brother No.1”. He created music in support of the Black Nationalist movements. His song “Say It Loud:I’m Blackand I’m Proud” (1968) and “I Don’t Want Nobody to Give Me Nothin” (1969) reflects his support. He also released an educational song in 1966 called “Don’t be a Drop-out”.
He played a role in the 1980 movie, The Blue Brothers. In 1985, he released a song called “Living in America”. It was featured in the movie Rocky IV. It was his first million-selling hit in thirteen years. He received a Grammy for Best R3 Performance by a Male Artist’ for this song in 1986
In February 1992, he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammy Awards. He was honored with the BET Lifetime Achieve- ment Award in 2003. Brown was one of the first singers to be inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on its inauguration in 1986.
James Brown was married four times. His last marriage was with Tom Rae Hynie in 2001. However, since she was legally married to someone else, this marriage was not valid under the South Carolina law. Brown has several children from these marriages.
James Brown passed away on 25th December, 2006 due to congestive heart failure caused by pneumonia. He was 73 years old.
Brown’s works have had a major role in shaping the cultural history of America. In his memoirs, he has written that, “Others may have followed in my wake, but I was the one who turned racist minstrelsy into black soul — and by doing so, became a cultural force.” Brown has also influenced artists such as Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger and Jay-Z. The Godfather of the Soul carries his legacy beyond the grave.