Mr. James Brown's has been celebrated throughout generations. As one of the most sampled artists to date, he has more honors attached to his name than any other performer in music history.
Mr. Brown was a three-figure hitmaker with 114 total entries on Billboard's R&B singles charts and 94 that made the Hot 100 singles chart. Seventeen of these hits reached number one, a feat topped only by Stevie Wonder and Louis Jordan. Mr. Brown is still putting that "Good Foot" forward with new recordings and protoges such as Derrick Monk, Laurice Monica and Roosevelt Johnson.
He was born in South Carolina during the Great Depression. As a child, he picked cotton, danced for spare change and shined shoes. At 16, he landed in reform school for three years where he met Bobby Byrd, leader of a gospel group and life-long friend. Mr. Brown tried semi-pro boxing and baseball, but a leg injury put him on the path to pursue music as a career.
James Brown joined his friend Bobby Byrd in a group that sang gospel in and around Toccoa, Georgia. After seeing Hank Ballard and Fats Domino in a blues revue, Byrd and Brown were lured into the realm of secular music. Naming their band the Flames, they formed a tightly knit ensemble of singers, dancers and multi-instrumentalists.
Over the years, while maintaining a grueling touring schedule, James Brown amassed 800 songs in his repertoire.
Mr. Brown became an icon of the music industry. With his signature one-three beat, James Brown directly influenced the evolutionary beat of soul music in the Sixties, funk music in the Seventies and rap music in the Eighties.
Mr. Brown instilled the essence of R&B with recordings under the King and Federal labels throughout the Sixties. With albums such as "Live at the Apollo", Mr. Brown captured the energy and hysteria generated by his live performances. People who had never seen him in person could hear and feel the excitement of him screaming and hollering until his back was soaking wet. Convinced that such an album would not sell, King Records refused to produce the album.
Mr. Brown put up his own money and recorded the performance at the Apollo Theater in 1962.
Released nearly a year later, "Live At The Apollo" went to Number Two on Billboard's album chart, an unprecedented feat for a live R&B album. Radio stations played it with a frequency formerly reserved for singles, and attendance at Mr. Brown's concerts mushroomed.
As the leader of the James Brown Revue (The J.B.'s), James Brown sweated off up to seven pounds a night through captivating performances. His furious regimen of spins, drops, and shtick such as feigning a heart attack thrilled crowds. The ritual donning of capes and skintight rhythm & blues became part of his personal trademark as a performer.
Mr. Brown's transformation of gospel fervor into the taut, explosive intensity of rhythm & blues, combined with precision choreography and dynamic showmanship, defined the direction of black music from the release of his first R&B hit ("Please Please Please") in 1956. In 1965, Brown scored his first Top 10 pop single with "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag," and the hits kept coming one after another for the next decade.
The gospel and blues structure of his early records gave way to rhythmic vocals and a complex funk sound. His innovations during this period had a profound influence on popular music styles around the world, including funk, rock, Afro-pop, disco and eventually rap.
James Brown's status as "The Godfather of Soul" remains undiminished. He continues to influence new generations of fans who often hear his funk grooves as samples on rap recordings. A charter member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Mr. Brown added to his collection of accolades when he received a lifetime achievement Grammy Award in 1992.