James Brown

James Brown
James Brown.


James Joseph Brown, Jr., May 3, 1933, Barnwell, SC; d. December 25, 2006, Atlanta, GA


Funk, Soul, R&B, Dance, Pop


Vocals, Keyboards

Contributions to music:

  • With his backing bands, generally considered to be the primary architect of funk music
  • A major force in transforming R&B music into soul
  • His 1963 LP Live At The Apollo was a major influence in bringing soul music to the masses
  • Perhaps the most dynamic stage presence rock and roll has ever produced
  • Considered one of soul music's greatest all-time vocalists
  • An important and activist African-American icon during the civil rights movement of the Sixties
  • A major player in the "blaxploitation" craze of the early Seventies
  • Sampled portions of his records were fundamental in the explosion of hip-hop in the late Eighties

Early years:

Born into abject poverty in Georgia, James Brown began performing gospel and R&B at an early age, but his entry into the professional music business ironically came from a prison stint -- while serving a sentence for armed robbery at the age of 16, he met one Bobby Byrd, whose family engineered Brown's release provided he get a job. James soon found himself in Byrd's group, The Avons, who became The Famous Flames in 1955. Cincinnati's King Records signed the popular touring group, now with James' name in front, and the band scored an immediate R&B smash with 1956's "Please, Please, Please."


The next two years saw James trying to follow that hit without much success, but when Little Richard left rock for the ministry in 1957, Brown inherited his tour dates, and with them his band, The Upsetters. Credited by the singer as the first band to put funk backbeats in music, they eventually crafted the unique funk sound, which resulted in their first pop smash -- 1965's "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." That groove only deepened as the Sixties ran on, and James became a black icon as much for his increasing social activism as his famous beat or now-legendary, incendiary live performances.

Later years:

By the mid-Seventies, however, disco was beginning to take a huge toll on funk and soul, and Brown was suffering from drug addiction and mismanaged funds. The emerging hip-hop movement helped bring the singer back into prominence by citing him as a major influence, and he engineered a comeback in 1986, but it was short-lived, especially when an infamous 1989 police chase landed him in jail for two years. James remained a popular live performer until his death in 2006, but his troublesome later years, plagued by drugs and violence, have tainted his legacy and public image to an extent.

Other facts:

  • Has had more charted R&B hits (116) than any other performer and is second only to Elvis Presley in Billboard Hot 100 pop hits (96)
  • Tried his hand at boxing and baseball before settling on music
  • Is the world's most sampled recording artist, with 1969's instrumental "Funky Drummer" remaining music's most sampled backbeat
  • Borrowed the guitar riff from David Bowie's 1975 hit "Fame" for his own "Hot (I Need To Be Loved, Loved, Loved, Loved)" after accusing Bowie of taking it from one of his earlier hits
  • 9th Street in Augusta, GA, where James lived as a child, has since been renamed James Brown Boulevard


    • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1986)
    • GRAMMY Awards (1965, 1986, 1991)
    • GRAMMY Hall of Fame (1998, 1999, 2001)
    • Kennedy Center Honors (2003)
    • Songwriters Hall of Fame (2000)

    Recorded work:

    #1 hits:

    • "Try Me" (1959)
    • "I Got You (I Feel Good)" (1965)
    • "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag Part 1" (1965)
    • "It's A Man's Man's Man's World" (1966)
    • "Cold Sweat - Part 1" (1967)
    • "I Got The Feelin'" (1968)
    • "Say It Loud - I'm Black And I'm Proud (Part 1)" (1968)
    • "Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose" (1969)
    • "Mother Popcorn (You Got To Have A Mother For Me) (Part 1)" (1969)
    • "Super Bad (Part 1 & Part 2)" (1970)
    • "Hot Pants Pt. 1 (She Got To Use What She Got To Get What She Wants)" (1970)
    • "Make It Funky (Part 1)" (1971)
    • "Get On The Good Foot - Part 1" (1972)
    • "Talking Loud And Saying Nothing - Part 1" (1972)
    • "My Thang" (1974)
    • "Papa Don't Take No Mess Part 1" (1974)
    • "The Payback - Part 1" (1974)
    Top 10 hits:
    • "I Got You (I Feel Good)" (1965)
    • "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag Part 1" (1965)
    • "It's A Man's Man's Man's World" (1966)
    • "Cold Sweat - Part 1" (1967)
    • "I Got The Feelin'" (1968)
    • "Say It Loud - I'm Black And I'm Proud (Part 1)" (1968)
    • "Living In America" (1985)
    • "Please, Please, Please" (1956)
    • "Think" (1960)
    • "Baby, You're Right" (1961)
    • "Bewildered" (1961)
    • "I Don't Mind" (1961)
    • "Lost Someone" (1962)
    • "Night Train" (1962)
    • "Prisoner Of Love" (1963)
    • "Ain't That a Groove, Pts. 1 & 2" (1966)
    • "Don't Be A Drop-Out" (1966)
    • "Let Yourself Go" (1967)
    • "I Can't Stand Myself (When You Touch Me)" (1968)
    • "Licking Stick - Licking Stick (Part 1)" (1968)
    • "There Was A Time" (1968)
    • "Ain't It Funky Now" (1968)
    • "I Don't Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door, I'll Get It Myself)" (1969)
    • "Let A Man Come In And Do The Popcorn Part One" (1969)
    • "Get Up (I Feel Like Being Like A) Sex Machine (Part 1)" (1970)
    • "Escape-ism (Part 1)" (1971)
    • "Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved Pt. 1" (1971)
    • "I'm A Greedy Man - Part 1" (1971)
    • "Soul Power Pt. 1" (1971)
    • "King Heroin" (1972)
    • "I Got A Bag Of My Own" (1973)
    • "Sexy, Sexy, Sexy" (1973)
    • "Stoned To The Bone - Part 1" (1974)
    • "Funky President (People It's Bad)" (1975)
    • "Get Up Offa That Thing" (1976)
    • "Living in America" (1985)
    • "How Do You Stop" (1987)
    • "I'm Real" (1988)
    • "Static" (1988)
    Other important recordings: "I'll Go Crazy," "Out Of Sight," "Ain't It Funky Now," "Brother Rapp (Part 1 & Part 2)," "Funky Drummer (Part 1)," "It's A New Day (Part 1 & Part 2)," "Hot (I Need To Be Loved, Loved, Loved, Loved)," "It's Too Funky In Here"
    Appears in the movies: "The TAMI/TNT Show" (1965), "Ski Party" (1965), "The Phynx" (1970), "The Blues Brothers" (1980), "Doctor Detroit" (1983), "Rocky IV" (1985), "When We Were Kings" (1996), "Holy Man" (1998), "Undercover Brother" (2002), "The Tuxedo" (2002)