- NAME: James Brown
- OCCUPATION: Activist, Dancer, Songwriter, Singer
- BIRTH DATE: May 03, 1933
- DEATH DATE: December 25, 2006
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Barnwell, South Carolina
- PLACE OF DEATH: Atlanta, Georgia
- Full Name: James Joe Brown Jr.
- Nickname: "The Hardest-Working Man in Show Business"
- AKA: James Joe Brown
- Nickname: "Godfather of Soul"
- AKA: James Brown
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James Brown, the "Godfather of Soul," was a prolific singer, songwriter and bandleader, as well as one of the most iconic figures in funk and soul music from 1956 to 2006.
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Born in Barnwell, South Carolina, on May 3, 1933, into extreme poverty, James Brown worked his way to the top of the funk and R&B music earning the moniker "The Godfather of Soul." His unique vocal and musical style influenced many artists. Brown was also renowned for his work in social activism, both in his songwriting ("America is My Home," "Black and Proud") and advocating the benefits of education to schoolchildren.
"When I'm on stage, I'm trying to do one thing: bring people joy. Just like church does. People don't go to church to find trouble, they go there to lose it."
"I started shining shoes at 3 cents, then went up to 5 cents, then 6 cents. I never did get up to a dime. I was 9 years old before I got a pair of underwear from a real store; all my clothes were made from sacks and things like that. But I knew I had to make it. I had the determination to go on, and my determination was to be somebody."
"The one thing that can solve most of our problems is dancing."
"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."
"If people wanted to know who James Brown is, all they have to do is listen to my music."
"I'm not going to tell anybody to pick up a gun."
The "Godfather of Soul," James Brown, was born James Joe Brown Jr. on May 3, 1933, in a one-room shack in the woods of Barnwell, South Carolina, a few miles east of the Georgia border. His parents split ways when he was very young, and at the age of 4, Brown was sent to Augusta, Georgia, to live with his Aunt Honey, the madam of a brothel. Growing up in abject poverty during the Great Depression, a young Brown worked whatever odd jobs he could find, for literally pennies. He danced for the soldiers at nearby Fort Gordon, picked cotton, washed cars and shined shoes.
Brown later recalled his impoverished childhood: "I started shining shoes at 3 cents, then went up to 5 cents, then 6 cents. I never did get up to a dime. I was 9 years old before I got a pair of underwear from a real store; all my clothes were made from sacks and things like that. But I knew I had to make it. I had the determination to go on, and my determination was to be somebody."
Dismissed from school at the age of 12 for "insufficient clothing," Brown turned to working his various odd jobs full-time. As an escape from the harsh reality of growing up black in the rural South during the Great Depression, Brown turned to religion and to music. He sang in the church choir, where he developed his powerful and uniquely emotive voice.
However, as a teenager Brown also turned to crime. At the age of 16, he was arrested for stealing a car and sentenced to three years in prison. While incarcerated, Brown organized and led a prison gospel choir. It was in jail that Brown met Bobby Byrd, an aspiring R&B singer and pianist, forming a friendship and musical partnership that proved one of the most fruitful in music history.
Always a gifted athlete, upon his release from prison in 1953 Brown turned his attention to sports and devoted the next two years primarily to boxing and playing semiprofessional baseball. Then, in 1955, Bobby Byrd invited Brown to join his R&B vocal group, The Gospel Starlighters. Brown accepted, and with his overbearing talent and showmanship, he quickly came to dominate the group. Renamed the Famous Flames, they moved to Macon, Georgia, where they performed at local nightclubs.
In 1956, the Famous Flames recorded a demo tape of the song "Please, Please, Please" and played it for Ralph Bass, a talent scout for King Records. Bass was thoroughly impressed by the song, and especially by Brown's passionate and soulful crooning. He offered the group a record contract, and within months "Please, Please, Please" had reached No.
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