Legendary Singer James Brown Dies at 73
By GREG BLUESTEIN 12.25.06, 11:20 AM ET
James Brown, the dynamic, pompadoured "Godfather of Soul," whose revolutionary rhythms, rough voice and flashing footwork influenced generations of musicians from rock to rap, died early Christmas morning. He was 73.
Brown was hospitalized with pneumonia at Emory Crawford Long Hospital on Sunday and died of conjunctive heart failure around 1:45 a.m. Monday, said his agent, Frank Copsidas of Intrigue Music.
He initially seemed fine at the hospital and even told people that he planned to be on stage in New York on New Year's Eve, Copsidas said.
Brown was one of the major musical influences of the past 50 years. From Mick Jagger to Michael Jackson, David Bowie to Public Enemy, Brown's rapid-footed dancing, hard-charging beats and heartfelt yet often unintelligible vocals changed the musical landscape. He was to rhythm and dance music what Bob Dylan was to lyrics.
"He was an innovator, he was an emancipator, he was an originator. Rap music, all that stuff came from James Brown," entertainer Little Richard, a longtime friend of Brown's, told MSNBC.
"James Brown changed music," said Rev. Al Sharpton, who toured with him in the 1970s and imitates his hairstyle to this day.
"He made soul music a world music," Sharpton said. "What James Brown was to music in terms of soul and hip-hop, rap, all of that, is what Bach was to classical music. This is a guy who literally changed the music industry. He put everybody on a different beat, a different style of music. He pioneered it."
Brown's classic singles include "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag," "(Get Up I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine," "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and "Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud," a landmark 1968 statement of racial pride.
"I clearly remember we were calling ourselves colored, and after the song, we were calling ourselves black," Brown told The Associated Press in 2003. "The song showed even people to that day that lyrics and music and a song can change society."
He won a Grammy for lifetime achievement in 1992, as well as Grammys in 1965 for "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" (best R&B recording) and for "Living In America" in 1987 (best R&B vocal performance, male.) He was one of the initial artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, along with Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and other founding fathers.
Brown, who lived in Beech Island, S.C., near the Georgia line, triumphed despite a turbulent personal life and charges of abusing drugs and alcohol. After a widely publicized, drug-fueled confrontation with police in 1988 that ended in an interstate car chase, Brown spent more than two years in prison for aggravated assault and failing to stop for a police officer.
From the 1950s, when Brown had his first R&B hit, "Please, Please, Please" in 1956, through the mid-1970s, Brown went on a frenzy of cross-country tours, concerts and new songs. He earned the nickname "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business" and often tried to prove it to his fans, said Jay Ross, his lawyer of 15 years.
Brown's stage act was as memorable, and as imitated, as his records, with his twirls and spins and flowing cape, his repeated faints to the floor at the end as band members tried in vain to get him to leave the stage.
His "Live at The Apollo" in 1962 is widely considered one of the greatest concert records ever. And he often talked of the 1964 concert in which organizers made the mistake of having the Rolling Stones, not him, close the bill. He would remember a terrified Mick Jagger waiting offstage, chain smoking, as Brown pulled off his matchless show.
"To this day, there has been no one near as funky. No one's coming even close," rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy once told the AP.
Brown routinely lost two or three pounds each time he performed and kept his furious concert schedule in his later years even as he fought prostate cancer, Ross said.
With his tight pants, shimmering feet, eye makeup and outrageous hair, Brown set the stage for younger stars such as Michael Jackson and Prince. And the early rap generation overwhelmingly sampled his music and voice as they laid the foundation of hip-hop culture.
"Disco is James Brown, hip-hop is James Brown, rap is James Brown; you know what I'm saying? You hear all the rappers, 90 percent of their music is me," Brown told The AP in 2003.
Born in poverty in Barnwell, S.C., in 1933, Brown was abandoned as a 4 year old to the care of relatives and friends. He grew up on the streets of Augusta, Ga., in an "ill-repute area," as he once called it, where he learned how to hustle to survive.
"I wanted to be somebody," Brown said.
By the eighth grade in 1949, Brown had served 3 1/2 years in Alto Reform School near Toccoa, Ga., for breaking into cars. While there, he met Bobby Byrd, whose family took Brown into their home. Byrd also took Brown into his group, the Gospel Starlighters. Soon they changed their name to the Famous Flames and their style to hard R&B.
In January 1956, King Records of Cincinnati signed the group, and four months later "Please, Please, Please" was in the R&B Top Ten.
Pete Allman, a radio personality in Las Vegas who had been friends with Brown for 15 years, credited Brown with jump-starting his career and motivating him personally and professionally.
"He was a very positive person. There was no question he was the hardest working man in show business," Allman said. "I remember Mr. Brown as someone who always motivated me, got me reading the Bible."
While most of Brown's life was glitz and glitter - he was the manic preacher in 1980's "The Blues Brothers" - he was plagued with charges of abusing drugs and alcohol and of hitting his third wife, Adrienne.
In September 1988, Brown, high on PCP and carrying a shotgun, entered an insurance seminar next to his Augusta office. Police said he asked seminar participants if they were using his private restroom. Police chased Brown for a half-hour from Augusta into South Carolina and back to Georgia. The chase ended when police shot out the tires of his truck.
Brown received a six-year prison sentence. He spent 15 months in a South Carolina prison and 10 months in a work release program before being paroled in February 1991. In 2003, the South Carolina parole board granted him a pardon for his crimes in that state.
Soon after his release, Brown was on stage again with an audience that included millions of cable television viewers nationwide who watched the three-hour, pay-per-view concert at Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles.
Adrienne Brown died in 1996 in Los Angeles at age 47. She took PCP and several prescription drugs while she had a bad heart and was weak from cosmetic surgery two days earlier, the coroner said.
More recently, he married his fourth wife, Tomi Raye Hynie, one of his backup singers. The couple had a son, James Jr.
Two years later, Brown spent a week in a private Columbia hospital, recovering from what his agent said was dependency on painkillers. Brown's attorney, Albert "Buddy" Dallas, said the singer was exhausted from six years of road shows.
Brown was performing to the end, and giving back to his community.
Three days before his death, he joined volunteers at his annual toy giveaway in Augusta, and he planned to perform on New Year's Eve at B.B. King Blues Club in New York.
"He was dramatic to the end - dying on Christmas Day," said the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a friend of Brown's since 1955. "Almost a dramatic, poetic moment. He'll be all over the news all over the world today. He would have it no other way."
AP National Writer Hillel Italie in New York contributed to this report.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed
Very sad news indeed .....JB was a huge influence on several generations of musicians and music. He brought a class and respectability to his brand of music and entertainment. Two of our favorites here at the board, Glenn (of course) and Stevie Wonder, were highly influenced by his style.
Goodbye James....Keep It Funky
oh yes I got shocked when I heard the news this morning, he wasn't only who brought Funk, Soul, Gospel... in our lives but also his unique style, music history wouldn't be the same without him.
He was a living legend and now his memory, his music, his influence will grow and grow with every generation.
Love and Respect
a sad christmas!
What a terrible loss to the music world.That man was funk and soul.He was the innovator of it,and no one never have and never will ever compare.He had a long career right up to the end.Who knows where hip-hop,rap,r&b,club and house music would've been with out his major influence.His music does live on.He truly was the hardest working man in show business.He always gave 120 percent on stage and made sure the fans got a show they will never forget.
Sleep on brother,May you R.I.P.We all will miss you!
I had tickets to see his 8PM performance on New Year's Eve.
Hope you're feeling good wherever you are, dear Godfather.....
Sad indeed. I've always loved rock music first and foremost, but my second love has been heavy funk. You know JB, the Fatback band and crossovers like The Isleys.
I saw The Godfather live a couple of years ago at the Liverpool Summer Pops, held annualy in an overgrown wigwam (actually a massive 4500 seater marquee). He was an hour late due to his train (???) being delayed. This was mega for me having been a fan since the 70s ... and, he was sensational. Remember the guy was then in his early 70s, so I can only guess at what he was like at the peak of his popularity in the mid 1970s. His band, as you'd expect, were note perfect ... tight as a duck's ar*e, and that's water tight. The heavy funk, live, was mind blowing and all the bigees were performed ... It's A Man's World, Please Please Please, It's Too Funky In Here, Get Up Offa That Thing and, of course, Sex Machine. The latter, always his anthem. and the ultimate disco funk song, I found exilerating and strange in equals measures. Exilerating ... this was Sex Machine, the biggest anthem funk/soul has known .... Strange ... c'mon a 70 year old dude singing about being a sex machine !!!
Having said that, I achieved something I'd always wanted to do and I saw the Godfather Of Soul live.
Now ... I'll continue to keep watching and listening to my mate the big G, the Godfather of Funk Rock.
Cheers ... Merry Xmas all.
I know WHERE I'd like to see it...........
Hey Chustler, I take it you are not a fan of hiphop,r&b,rap,club and house music.Well, I guess you should take some xanax and brace yourself because this music will be around for a long time.It's not going any where
I have been listening to the three multi-disc sets that Polygram released while highlight several phases of James Brown's career. The story begins in 1964 with Foundations Of Funk: A Brand New Bag 1964-1969. Up to this point James Brown's music had been a mix of gospel and R&B but he turned a corner with "Out Of Sight" in 1964 and opened the floodgates with classics like Cold Sweat, I Got You (I Feel Good), Papa's Got A Brand New Bag, Licking Stick, Mother Popcorn......to name a few. This was music like no one had heard before; tight, infectious and guaranteed to pack the dance floor. And Brown was his own man in the studio; he eschewed the use of session musicians and insisted on using his own band to get the groove and feeling he heard in his head. The band was a sleek, well oiled machine, tight enough to turn on a dime and give you change. They were the engine room backing the dynamo that was The Hardest Working Man In Show Business.
1970 brought another sea change in James Brown's music and this period is chronicled in Funk Power 1970; A Brand New Thang. Brown's band had quit in a dispute over money just before a show in Columbus GA and a call went out to find replacements that very night. The former Dapps found themselves on a Lear jet and onstage that very night. To say the new band was unpolished was an understatement. it was left to Bobby Byrd, James' long time right hand man to whip the new recruits into shape. And did he ever! The new music was focused even further on the rhythm section, the grooves tighter and tougher, Brown's lyrics were used more for sound than sense. The songs; Sex Machine, Super Bad, Soul Power, Get Up,Get Into It, Get Involved, Talking Loud And Saying Nothing...were the groundwork for rap and hip-hop. And the bassist, one William "Bootsy" Collins would go on to stardom in his own right.
The third set Make It Funky; The Big Payback 1971-1975 covers the last real glory period. While retaining many of his long time sidemen like Fred Wesley, St. Clair Pickney, Fred Thomas and John Starks, Brown opened up to the idea of using session players for the first time. The young players making their mark in the session business had grown up listening to his music and they got it....they understand the funk! The classics did flow..Hot Pants, There It Is, Get On The Good Foot,The Payback, Papa Don't Take No Mess, Down And Out In New York City, My Thang......and it wasn't all about getting down either as the poignant King Heroin tells a tale of the danger of hard drugs. OK, the cynic in me will grumble that Mister Brown didn't walk his talk...but the music he made will be remembered long after the foibles of the man are long forgotten.
Think I'm gonna turn up the music..jump back and kiss myself!!
Listened to a local radio station tribute for JB.
They played "his version" of the classic country song Hank Williams "Your Cheatin Heart." Unreal
I watched the services held for him this afternoon. Beautiful, moving and tinged with happiness and laughter. A ceremony truly fit for the Godfather.