James Brown facts
|Born||James Joseph Brown, Jr.
May 3, 1933
Barnwell, South Carolina, U.S.
|Died||December 25, 2006
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
|Cause of death||Pneumonia|
|Other names||James Brown and the Famous Flames|
|Children||9, possibly 13 (see below)|
James Brown (born May 3, 1928 or 1933) is one of the most important figures in 20th century music and a prime influence in the evolution of gospel and rhythm and blues into soul and funk. As a singer, dancer and bandleader, he has influenced popular musicians since the 1960s. He has been cited as an influence by musicians in many genres, including rock, soul, jazz, R&B, and hip-hop. In a career that lasted 50 years, he influenced the development of several music genres.
Among other things, his quick ascent to icon status in the musical community can be attributed to his rejection of industry stereotypes. Known as The Godfather Of Soul, Soul Brother Number One, and The Minister of New New Super Heavy Funk, he was a symbol of self-motivation and achievement in spite of racism against African Americans.
Brown grew up in the poverty of Depression era Augusta, Georgia. At 16, he was convicted of armed robbery and made the acquaintance of Bobby Byrd. He secured an early release after three years with the help of Byrd's family under the condition that he not return to Augusta or Richmond County and that he would try to get a job. After a brief stint as a boxer and then baseball pitcher ended by a leg injury, Brown turned his energy toward music, transforming the vocal band The Gospel Starlighters into the first generation of The Famous Flames.
He began to tour relentlessly (Brown often calls himself The Hardest Working Man In Show Business) and the band built a following with their live shows. Brown's early hits, were fairly straightforward gospel and R&B compositions marked by a rhythmic and sharpness of vocal and instrumental attack that would later become even more pronounced and would lead to the style called "funk".
Brown's trademark screams and stage act are renowned for generating a positive and highly excited response from the audience. While these early singles were local hits, and performed well on the R&B chart, the band was not nationally successful until this live show was captured on record, on Brown's self-financed Live at the Apollo in 1963.
Brown followed this success with a string of singles that essentially defined funk music. Brown employed musicians and arrangers who had come up through the jazz tradition. He was noted for his ability as a bandleader and songwriter to marry the simplicity and drive of R&B to the rhythmic complexity and precision of jazz. Mixed in with his more famous rhythmic essays of the era were ballads and even Broadway show tunes.
By 1970 he employed a new band. As Brown's musical empire grew (he bought radio stations in the late 1960s), his desire for financial and artistic independence grew as well. The early 70s marked the first real awareness, outside the African-American community, of Brown's achievements; Miles Davis and other jazz musicians began to cite Brown as a major influence on their styles.
The Eighties to the Present
In 1985 he managed another hit single. Brown still makes his home in the Augusta area, and is a prominent figure in that community. A street in downtown Augusta is named James Brown Boulevard in his honor.
The 1991 four-CD retrospective Star Time is a synopsis of his career; nearly all his earlier LPs have been re-released on CD, often with additional tracks and informed commentary by scholars familiar with Brown. In short, James Brown's reputation as an innovator is now commonplace. Four of Brown's albums were in Rolling Stone magazine's 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
- Live at the Apollo (1963) (#25)
- In the Jungle Groove (1986) (#330)
- Star Time (1991) (#79)
- 20 All-Time Greatest Hits! (1991)
On 25 December 2006, Brown died of pneumonia and heart disease in Atlanta. There was a public memorial service at Apollo Theater. Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Prince were there. In 1993 Brown was in The Simpsons episode Bart's Inner Child.
Brown after a concert in Tampa on January 29, 1972
James Brown Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.