We all know that the holidays are supposed to be a time of cheer and joy that we spend with the ones we love. However, this past Christmas took a somewhat sadder note with the passing of a music legend, James Brown.
James Brown was born in 1933 in Macon, Georgia and after showing a talent in music, became the lead singer for the Famous Flames in 1953 with hits such as “Please, Please, Please” hitting the charts in 1956. James Brown then decided to go solo and had his first #1 song “Try Me” in 1958, followed by the legendary record “Live at the Apollo” in 1962.
Along with 116 charted R B; hits, including “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”, “I Got You (I Feel Good)” and “Living in America” from the 1986 Rocky IV movie which propelled James Brown as a popular music figure with some younger crowds.
Despite all of James Brown’s success, trouble seemed to not be far behind. Abandoned at the age of 4, James Brown grew up on the streets as well as with a variety of friends and relatives. At the age of 14, James Brown served 3 and a half years in Alto Reform School for breaking into cars. In 1988, James Brown broke into an insurance seminar while high on PCP and wielding a shot gun, leading to an over hour long police chase with authorities eventually shooting out the tires on his pick up truck. As a result, James Brown faced up to 6 years in prison, serving 15 months in prison and another 10 months in a work release program.
Granted James Brown had an extensive criminal record he also had his share of trouble with women. He was married to Adrienne Brown who died in 1996 from an overdose on PCP and prescription drugs as a result of having a weak heart from recent cosmetic surgery. James Brown more recently married his fourth wife and back up singer Tomi Raye Hynie with whom he had a son, James Jr. Two years into his marriage, James Brown spent a week in a private Columbia hospital for a dependency on pain killers as well as possible exhaustion from extensive touring.
The majority of artists today claim an influence by James Brown, with phrases like “I Feel Good” penetrating across generations. The Godfather of Soul was also one of the first individuals to claim racial pride during a turbulent time in America with the statement “Say it out loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud”.
Never afraid to make a statement, James Brown was known for his often flamboyant stage shows, featuring makeup and tight pants. He single handedly set the stage for such performers as Michael Jackson as well as Prince and Mick Jagger. James Brown as also been sampled by a slue of artists including Ice-T and Public Enemy.
James Brown has 96 Top 100 hits, and is #2 of all time with hit records behind Elvis Presley. He also received 3 Grammy’s, an American Music Award as well as a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a Kennedy Center Honoree. James Brown is also one of the original inductees and founding members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with artists such as Presley and Chuck Berry, as well as one of the recipients of the Grammy Life Time Achievement Award. The “Hardest Working Man in Show Business” continued touring up until his death from pneumonia on Christmas Day 2006.
Such a tremendous loss of a music legend and talent will not soon be forgotten. James Brown leaves behind his wife and six kids as well as a plethora of records, hits and catch phrases that generations will likely enjoy.