- 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
Best Known For
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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A staunch believer in exclusively nonviolent protest, Brown once declared to H. Rap Brown of the Black Panthers, "I'm not going to tell anybody to pick up a gun."
On April 5, 1968, the day after Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, with riots raging across the country,
Brown gave a rare televised live concert in Boston in an attempt to prevent rioting there. His effort succeeded; young Bostonians stayed home to watch the concert on TV and the city largely avoided violence. A few months later he wrote and recorded "Say It Loud: I'm Black and I'm Proud," a protest anthem that has unified and inspired generations.
Throughout the 1970s, Brown continued to perform ceaselessly and recorded several more hits, most notably "Sex Machine" and "Get Up Offa That Thing." Although his career fell off during the late 1970s due to financial troubles and the rise of disco, Brown made an inspired comeback with a multifaceted performance in the classic 1980 film The Blues Brothers. His 1985 song "Living in America," featured prominently in Rocky IV, was his biggest hit in decades.
However, after becoming one of the first musicians inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986—the year of its inception—in the late 1980s, Brown slowly slid into a mire of drug addiction and depression. The culmination of his personal troubles came in 1988, when he entered an insurance seminar high on PCP and bearing a shotgun before leading police on a half-hour high-speed car chase from Augusta, Georgia, into South Carolina. The police had to shoot out Brown's tires to end the chase. The incident led to Brown spending 15 months in jail before being released on parole in 1991.
Re-emerging from prison rehabbed and very much his old self, Brown returned to touring, once again delivering inspired and energetic concerts, albeit on a schedule much reduced from his heyday.
Brown married four times over the course of his life and had six children. His wives' names were Velma Warren (1953-1969), Deidre Jenkins (1970-1981), Adrienne Rodriguez (1984-1996) and Tomi Rae Hynie (2002-2004).
James Brown passed away on December 25, 2006, after a weeklong battle with pneumonia. He was 73 years old.
James Brown is unquestionably one of the most influential musical pioneers of the last half-century. The Godfather of Soul, the inventor of funk, the grandfather of hip-hop—Brown is cited as a seminal influence by artists ranging from Mick Jagger to Michael Jackson to Afrika Bambaataa to Jay-Z. Perfectly aware of his role in American cultural history, Brown wrote in his memoir, "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." And although he wrote widely and was widely written about, Brown always maintained that there was only one way to truly understand him: "As I always said, if people wanted to know who James Brown is, all they have to do is listen to my music."
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