- 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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6 on the R&B charts.
The Flames immediately hit the road, touring the Southeast while opening for such legendary musicians as B.B. King and Ray Charles. But the band wasn't immediately able to record another hit to match the success of "Please, Please, Please," and by the end of 1957, the Flames had returned home.
Needing a creative spark and in danger of losing his record deal, in 1958, Brown moved to New York, where, working with different musicians whom he also called the Flames, he recorded "Try Me." The song reached No. 1 on the R&B charts, cracked the Hot 100 Singles chart and kick-started Brown's music career. He soon followed with a string of hits that included "Lost Someone," "Night Train" and "Prisoner of Love," his first song to crack the Top 10 on the pop charts, peaking at No. 2.
In addition to writing and recording music, Brown toured relentlessly. He performed five or six nights a week throughout the 1950s and '60s, a schedule that earned him the title "The Hardest-Working Man in Show Business." Brown was a flashy showman, incredible dancer, and soulful singer, and his concerts were hypnotizing displays of exuberance and passion that left audiences in raptures. His saxophonist, Pee Wee Ellis, once said, "When you heard James Brown was coming to town, you stopped what you were doing and started saving your money."
Brown fastidiously mastered and performed whatever dances were popular at the time—"the camel walk," "the mashed potato," "the popcorn" —and often improvised his own after announcing that he was about to "do the James Brown." A shrewd and ruthless bandleader and businessman, Brown scheduled his tours to hit "money towns" on the weekends, and demanded perfection from his backup singers and musicians. He infamously fined musicians for missing notes, and during performances he called out musicians to improvise on the spot. As one of Brown's musicians said, with considerable understatement, "You had to think quick to keep up."
On a single night—October 24, 1962—Brown recorded a live concert album at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Initially opposed by King Records because it featured no new songs, Live at the Apollo proved Brown's greatest commercial success yet, peaking at No. 2 on the pop albums chart and firmly establishing his crossover appeal.
Brown went on to record many of his most popular and enduring singles during the mid-1960s, including "I Got You (I Feel Good)," "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" and "It's a Man's Man's Man's World." With its unique rhythmic quality, achieved by reducing each instrument to an essentially percussive role, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" is considered the first song of a new genre, funk, an offshoot of soul and a precursor of hip-hop.
In the mid-1960s, James Brown also began devoting more and more energy to social causes. In 1966, he recorded "Don't Be a Dropout," an eloquent and impassioned plea to the black community to place more focus on education.
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Many African-Americans made their name performing at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, including Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown and Jimi Hendrix. The roster of talented artists who made their careers after a successful amateur night at the Apollo grew so large, that the venue earned a reputation as the place to jump-start the career of an ambitious hopeful. Other performers, like Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson, came to the theater after experiencing big professional success, adding further credibility to the historic New York concert hall. Explore the biographies of some of the more notable African-Americans who stepped out onto the Apollo stage, making entertainment history.
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The United Service Organization was founded in 1941, as a way to provide morale to service members through entertainment. Hollywood was happy to promote its patriotism (and its stars), and sent entertainers to combat zones, often in danger, to perform for the troops. From Marilyn Monroe to Stephen Colbert, many of the biggest names in showbiz have put on shows for the American service members around the world. Check out these famous USO entertainers.
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