This has got to be one of the most prolific and versatile masters of the funk genre. The indivvidual parts to his funk tunes were as simple as can be. However when they all blended together under the leadership of James Brown, with his penchant for musical discipline, the sound was absolutely amazing.
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 popular music and dance, he is often referred to as the "Godfather of Soul". In a career that lasted 50 years, he influenced the development of several music genres.
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 Flames) founded by Bobby Byrd, in which he was the lead singer. 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 he 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. 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 congestive heart failure in 2006.
Brown recorded 17 singles that reached number one on the Billboard R&B charts. He also holds the record for the most singles listed on the Billboard Hot 100 chart which did not reach number one. Brown has received honors from many institutions, including inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame. In Joel Whitburn's analysis of the Billboard R&B charts from 1942 to 2010, James Brown is ranked as number one in The Top 500 Artists. He is ranked seventh on the music magazine 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.
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. Brown's name was supposed to have been Joseph James Brown, but his first and middle names were mistakenly reversed on his birth certificate. He later legally changed his name to remove "Jr." His parents were both black; in his autobiography, Brown stated that he also had Chinese and Native American ancestry. The Brown family lived in extreme poverty in Elko, South Carolina, which was an impoverished town at the time. They later moved to Augusta, Georgia, when James was four or five. His family first settled at one of his aunts' brothels. They later moved into a house shared with another aunt. Brown's mother eventually left the family after a contentious marriage and moved to New York. 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". 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. 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. In his teen years, Brown briefly had a career as a boxer. At the age of 16, he was convicted of robbery and sent to a juvenile detention center in Toccoa. There, he formed a gospel quartet with four fellow cellmates, including Johnny Terry. Stories differ as to how Brown eventually attained parole. According to one story, Bobby Byrd's family helped to secure an early release, while another version of events had Brown getting parole after S. C. Lawson, the owner of a car and motor manufacturing company, agreed to sponsor him, with the provision that Brown promise to pursue a two-year job commitment. He was paroled on June 14, 1952. Upon his release, he joined a gospel group and had several jobs, working for the Lawson Motor Company and as a janitor at a local school. Brown and Bobby Byrd reportedly met and became friends following Brown's release from prison.