James Brown

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About James Brown

In the history of music, it’s likely that no other performer has been as inexhaustible as the Godfather of Soul. Before he was The Hardest Working Man in Show Business, James Brown was a poor boy from South Carolina, born in 1933 in a wooden shack. Convicted of robbery at 16, Brown started a gospel quartet behind bars, and singer Bobby Byrd’s family helped him get out early. Released under the name James Brown & The Famous Flames, 1956’s gospel-inflected “Please, Please, Please” gave Brown his first taste of chart success, but it took nearly a decade of relentless touring to make good on it. With 1963’s blazing Live at the Apollo, listeners got a proper taste of Brown’s explosive talents, and from the mid-‘60s to the mid-’70s, he burned up the R&B charts. It’s this era that defined Brown’s musical legend, and during those years he evolved from upbeat soul (1965’s “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag, Pt. 1”) to funk marathons (1970’s “Get Up I Feel Like Being a Sex Machine,” which features his all-star band, The J.B.’s), and amplified a message of Black empowerment with 1968’s “Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud), Pts. 1 & 2.” In the ‘80s, artists who sampled his music, like Afrika Bambaataa, with whom Brown collaborated on 1984’s hopeful “Unity, Pt. 1: The Third Coming,” placed him at the vanguard of rap. The relationship was fruitful; Brown’s music lives on in a wider sense than he might have dreamed—as the most sampled artist of all time.

Barnwell, SC, United States
May 3, 1933
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