James Joseph Brown,Jr was born May 3,1933 in Barnwell, South Carolina to Susie and Joseph Brown(nee Gardner).The first and middle names on the birth certificate were inadvertently reversed, so the name James remained as his first.
James lived in dire poverty. When he was two,his mother abandoned the family. At age six,he and his father moved to Augusta ,Georgia and soon thereafter,James was sent to live with an aunt who ran a house of prostitution.
He dropped out of school in the 7th grade.He earned money shining shoes,washing dishes and singing in talent contests.He learned to play harmonica,drums,piano and other instruments along the way.
At age 16,he was convicted of armed robbery and was sent to reform school where he met Bobby Byrd who was impressed by Brown’s talent. Byrd’s family convinced the courts to let Brown out early and they would keep an eye on him. This is when James,along with Byrd’s sister,Sarah, joined a group called the Gospel Starlighters. James left that group to join Bobby’s secular group called the Avons,then becoming the Flames. They performed all over the “chitlin’ circuit” and were eventually signed by Federal Records, where they recorded”Please,Please,Please,” in 1956.
In 1959, Brown and The Famous Flames moved to King Records.Against the labels desire,Brown himself financed a release of the live-recorded album”Live At The Apollo”. The album rose to #2 on the pop charts. In 1965, “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag” and “I Got You(I Feel Good)” became top ten pop hits and #1 r&b hits. 191966,Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag” won a Grammy for best r&b recording.
As the years went by,Brown’s music became more influenced by funk and jazz,in addition to r&b, which were a great platform to show off his funky dance moves.In 1967,he purchased a radio station in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he changed it to an all rhythms and blues platform.
By the 1970’s, his group had disbanded and he signed with Polydor Records., where he steadily put out songs for the next several years.In 1986, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. By the ’80’s, his career had a resurgence as he appeared movies such as “The Blues Brothers” and Rocky IV” in which he sang the monster hit theme from the movie”Living In America”. For that song, he won the Grammy for best male Vocal r&b performance in 1987.
Though he spent a stint in prison for leading police on a high speed car chase,when he came out he went right back to work,with television appearances,movies and live performances.His touring shows were very elaborate and very much showcased his showmanship. He never slowed down as evidenced in the following You tube clip of a live performance at the 2005 Grammy’s with singer,Usher. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aY6zpvqoojo
James Brown died December 25th, 2006 of congestive heart failure due to pneumonia.
Why do I love James Brown? Hello!! Godfather of Soul. Hardest working man in show business. No two monikers could better describe this man. He was awesome and soul music absolutely would not be the same as we know it without him. And the man could dance. I mean really kick-ass on stage with his moves. He influenced a myriad of artists with his singing and/or dancing including, Edwin Starr,Sly and The Family Stone, David Ruffin, Chris Brown,Gnarls Barkley and a vast amount of others. Not to mention the one whom he influenced the most and my favorite soul in the Universe living or dead,,Michael Jackson. What a legacy!
If you don’t like James Brown, you must not like to get down!
God Bless James Brown.