Legendary Soul Singer James Brown Dies at 73

One of the most influential American musicians of the 20th century, James Brown, died today, December 25, of a of conjunctive heart failure.

There will be a press conference today at 4:30 p.m. to discuss the life, legacy, and passing of James Brown. In attendance will be his manager Frank Copsidas of Intrigue Music, his personal manager Charles Bobbit, and the Reverend Al Sharpton. Location is the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Downtown Atlanta at 265 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta, Georgia. The press conference will take place in the Dunwoody Room.

In the United States, James Brown was known as the “Godfather of Soul.” His dynamic showmanship was celebrated throughout generations. As one of the most sampled artists to date, he had more honors attached to his name than any other performer in music history.

James 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. Brown was still putting that “Good
Foot” forward with new recordings and protégés such as Derrick Monk,
Laurice Monica and Roosevelt Johnson.

James Brown’s life history contained many triumphs over adversity. 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. 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.

James 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 1960, funk music in the 1970s and rap music in the 1980.

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, 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.

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.

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.

A charter member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, James Brown added to his collection of accolades a lifetime achievement Grammy Award in 1992.

Biography courtesy of Intrigue Music

Author: World Music Central News Department

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