The Life and Music of James Brown


James Brown is known as the "Godfather of Soul." He is an iconic American who has been a part of modern culture for many decades, and his legend still lives on. James Brown was born in 1933 in South Carolina, during the height of the Great Depression. He grew up in poverty, and his father and mother divorced when he was six years old, when he went to live in Georgia. As a child, Brown would do all kinds of odd jobs from cleaning up stores to shining shoes. He taught himself to play the harmonica, and as a teenager he met a man named Bobby Byrd who would later have an important influence on his musical life. In 1995, he joined Byrd in a singing and dancing group, where they eventually earned themselves a record deal. The music style at that time was mostly R&B and gospel, but of course James Brown added is own special touches to it.

By the late 1950s and early 1960s, James Brown had made a name for himself. He released several records on different labels such as King Records, Dade Records, and several others, which were well known at that time. He was part of a group called James Brown and the Famous Flames, and they released several hit singles such as "Do the Mashed Potatoes," which reached the top ten R&B chart in 1960. As time went on, Brown's popularity grew. In 1962, his cover of "Night Train" was a huge hit, and when he released a live show on LP in 1963 called Live at the Apollo, his fame was definite. Over the next decade, James Brown went on to release many hit singles including "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," "Out of Sight," "Give it Up or Turnit A Loose," and "Funky Drummer," to name a few. He was a success with younger people, and older folks who enjoyed the soulful singing style he possessed. In 1967, Brown purchased a radio station in Knoxville, Tennessee that played R&B and soul music. This allowed him to have more control over his music, and help him to network with other artists who enjoyed the same style.

By the 1970s, the Famous Flames had disbanded, but Brown was still determined to press on with his music. He began recording music for Polydor Records, and had become so well known that legendary artists like Miles Davis were known to be admirers. Brown was known for his funky costumes, commanding stage presence and his method of dancing. He also wore flamboyant stage outfits and had an entertaining presence that was easily recognized. Throughout the next two decades, he continued to write, produce, and perform his music for several record labels, and had great success. In the late 1980s, James Brown spent a brief time in prison. He had begun to have issues with drugs and alcohol, and it was starting to show. Even still, he wrote countless songs for movies, live events, and for his recorded albums. Over the years, he became an icon of soul and funk music, and was an inspiration to countless musicians. On Christmas Day of 2006, James Brown passed away due to congestive heart failure. He has left behind a legacy for the music community that will live on forever.