James Brown

James Brown
James Brown Live Hamburg 1973 1702730029.jpg
Brown performing in February 1973
James Joseph Brown Jr.

(1933-05-03)May 3, 1933
DiedDecember 25, 2006(2006-12-25) (aged 73)
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • dancer
  • musician
  • record producer
  • bandleader
  • Velma Warren
    (m. 1953; div. 1969)
  • Deidre Jenkins
    (m. 1970; div. 1981)
  • Adrienne Rodriguez
    (m. 1984; died 1996)
  • Tomi Rae Hynie (m. 2001–2006)
Children9 (possibly 13; see below)
Musical career
  • Vocals
  • piano
  • organ
  • drums
  • harmonica
  • guitar
Years active
  • 1953–1988
  • 1991–2006
Associated acts

James Joseph Brown (May 3, 1933 – December 25, 2006) was an American singer, songwriter, dancer, musician, record producer and bandleader. A progenitor of funk music and a major figure of 20th-century music and dance, he is often referred to as the "Godfather of Soul".[1] In a career that lasted 50 years, he influenced the development of several music genres.[2]

Brown began his career as a gospel singer in Toccoa, Georgia. He joined an R&B vocal group, the Gospel Starlighters (which later evolved into the Famous Flames) founded by Bobby Byrd, in which he was the lead singer.[3][4] First coming to national public attention in the late 1950s as a member of the singing group The Famous Flames with the hit ballads "Please, Please, Please" and "Try Me", Brown built a reputation as a tireless live performer with the Famous Flames and his backing band, sometimes known as the James Brown Band or the James Brown Orchestra. His success peaked in the 1960s with the live album Live at the Apollo and hit singles such as "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag", "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and "It's a Man's Man's Man's World".

During the late 1960s, Brown moved from a continuum of blues and gospel-based forms and styles to a profoundly "Africanized" approach to music-making that influenced the development of funk music.[5] By the early 1970s, Brown had fully established the funk sound after the formation of the J.B.s with records such as "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine" and "The Payback". He also became noted for songs of social commentary, including the 1968 hit "Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud". Brown continued to perform and record until his death from pneumonia in 2006. Brown was inducted into 1st class of the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame in 2013 as an artist and then in 2017 as a songwriter.

Brown recorded 17 singles that reached No. 1 on the Billboard R&B charts.[6][7] He also holds the record for the most singles listed on the Billboard Hot 100 chart which did not reach No. 1.[8][9] Brown has received honors from many institutions, including inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame.[10] In Joel Whitburn's analysis of the Billboard R&B charts from 1942 to 2010, Brown is ranked No. 1 in The Top 500 Artists.[11] He is ranked No. 7 on Rolling Stone's list of its 100 greatest artists of all time. Rolling Stone has also cited Brown as the most sampled artist of all time.[12][13]

Early life

Brown was born on May 3, 1933, in Barnwell, South Carolina, to 16-year-old Susie (née Behling; 1917–2003), and 22-year-old Joseph Gardner Brown (1911–1993), in a small wooden shack.[14] Brown's name was supposed to have been Joseph James Brown Jr., but his first and middle names were mistakenly reversed on his birth certificate.[15] He later legally changed his name to remove "Jr." In his autobiography, Brown stated that he also had Chinese and Native American ancestry, and that his father was of mixed African-American and Native American descent, whilst his mother was of mixed African-American and Asian descent.[16][17][18] The Brown family lived in extreme poverty in Elko, South Carolina, which was an impoverished town at the time.[8] They later moved to Augusta, Georgia, when James was four or five.[19] His family first settled at one of his aunts' brothels. They later moved into a house shared with another aunt.[19] Brown's mother eventually left the family after a contentious and abusive marriage and moved to New York.[20] Brown spent long stretches of time on his own, hanging out in the streets and hustling to get by. He managed to stay in school until the sixth grade.

He began singing in talent shows as a young child, first appearing at Augusta's Lenox Theater in 1944, winning the show after singing the ballad "So Long".[21] While in Augusta, Brown performed buck dances for change to entertain troops from Camp Gordon at the start of World War II as their convoys traveled over a canal bridge near his aunt's home.[21] He learned to play the piano, guitar, and harmonica during this period. He became inspired to become an entertainer after hearing "Caldonia" by Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five.[22] In his teen years, Brown briefly had a career as a boxer.[23] At the age of 16, he was convicted of robbery and sent to a juvenile detention center in Toccoa.[24] There, he formed a gospel quartet with four fellow cellmates, including Johnny Terry. Brown met singer Bobby Byrd when the two played against each other in a baseball game outside the detention center. Byrd also discovered that Brown could sing, after hearing of "a guy called Music Box", which was Brown's musical nickname at the prison. Byrd has since claimed he and his family helped to secure an early release, which led to Brown promising the court he would "sing for the Lord". Brown was paroled on June 14, 1952.[25] Shortly thereafter, he joined the gospel group, the Ever-Ready Gospel Singers, featuring Byrd's sister Sarah.[26]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: James Brown
Alemannisch: James Brown
العربية: جيمس براون
aragonés: James Brown
asturianu: James Brown
azərbaycanca: Ceyms Braun
تۆرکجه: جیمز براون
Bân-lâm-gú: James Brown
български: Джеймс Браун
català: James Brown
Чӑвашла: Джеймс Браун
čeština: James Brown
Cymraeg: James Brown
Deutsch: James Brown
Ελληνικά: Τζέιμς Μπράουν
español: James Brown
Esperanto: James Brown
euskara: James Brown
føroyskt: James Brown
français: James Brown
Gaeilge: James Brown
Gàidhlig: James Brown
galego: James Brown
հայերեն: Ջեյմս Բրաուն
hrvatski: James Brown
Bahasa Indonesia: James Brown
íslenska: James Brown
italiano: James Brown
ქართული: ჯეიმზ ბრაუნი
Kreyòl ayisyen: James Brown
latviešu: Džeimss Brauns
Lëtzebuergesch: James Brown
lietuvių: James Brown
македонски: Џејмс Браун
Malagasy: James Brown
მარგალური: ჯეიმზ ბრაუნი
Nederlands: James Brown
norsk nynorsk: James Brown
occitan: James Brown
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਜੇਮਸ ਬਰਾਊਨ
Piemontèis: James Brown
polski: James Brown
português: James Brown
română: James Brown
русский: Браун, Джеймс
sicilianu: James Brown
Simple English: James Brown
slovenčina: James Brown
slovenščina: James Brown
српски / srpski: Џејмс Браун
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: James Brown
Basa Sunda: James Brown
svenska: James Brown
тоҷикӣ: Ҷеймс Браун
Türkçe: James Brown
українська: Джеймс Браун
Tiếng Việt: James Brown
Yorùbá: James Brown