Photo by Seitu Oronde. Story by Heather Covington.
James Brown, known as “the Godfather of Soul,” died at 73 years old after almost half a decade of non-stop performances on Christmas Day at 1:45am in Emory Crawford Long Hospital. He succumbed to congestive heart failure from a sudden bout with pneumonia according to his agent, Frank Copsidus (New York Times,Dec.2006).
Born May 3, 1933, he owned a powerful voice, skillfully unique and entertaining dance moves, a relaxed and sleek hairstyle all his own, and powerful presence when he entered any room.
Influenced by legendary greats like Little Richard and Ray Charles, he became one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century and earned the title,”The Hardest Working Man in Show Business.” He went on to inspire other talents like Prince, Michael Jackson, Usher, Bobby Brown, Bootsy Collins, The Time, George Clinton, Al Green, Prince, and Ginuwine to name a few sucessful artists.
His rise to fame was a tumultous journey for the multi genre singer who mastered rhythm and blues with break out hits like,”Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,”” I Feel Good, ” The Payback”, “Please, Please, Please,” and soul funk inspired hits like “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud,” and “This is a Man’s… World.” He captivated a nation with his sensational singing group, “The Flames” and later on debuted his 1st pop hit,”Prisoner of Love,” turning out a crowd at “Live at the Apollo” shows.
He changed his musical style to an often rap sampled downbeat and uptempo rhythm to capture his audience, and added his classic knee drop moves, fast spins and splits to create a show spectacular. It was James Brown “Living in America” theme song that brought movies like Rocky IV back to the top and won him a second Grammy.
He was inducted into the “Rock & Roll Hall of Fame” on January 23, 1986, won several Grammy’s, was honored with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” at the 34th Annual Grammy Awards, and a street was renamed “James Brown Boulevard” in his hometown of Augustus among other noteworthy honors.
He is survived by 6 children,Venisha, Deanna, Yanna,Daryl, Jerry and James II.
His last words according to his manager were,”I’m going to leave you tonight.”
During his public viewing by over 20,000 people from fans to spectators alongside 2 blocks of 125th street in front of the Apollo theater, Harlem united with peace mixed with tears, music from blasting old fashioned boom boxes and cars, and stories from people who knew James Joseph Brown, Jr. who legally had his name changed to drop the JR.
Perhaps, he wanted to erase his burgeoning past filled with petty crimes as most troubled youth engage in who saw no future, but for James, he fought his success and talent everyday which led to several arrests.
Fate would bring him face-to-face with people like Bobby Byrd who helped him break from prison with an early release. He’d soon meet female group singers like, “The Gospel Starlighters” before forming his own group and opening a publishing company and company.
He’d top the Seven Decades of Funk World Tour” up until 2006 and perform his last concert at the Oxygen Festival selling out to over 80,000 fans despite legal woes from back taxes.
Admired for his talent and words of support for education and going on a national crusade to inspire teenagers to not drop out of school with his hit,”Don’t be a Dropout (1966), he became a polical voice for the African-American community.
Married 4 times, his last wife, Tammie Raye Hyne bears the history of his remaining years of life and James Brown ability to cope after losing his eldest son in a car crash in 1973.
James Brown survived an era of crime and racism in America by working hard and remaining true to himself. He was often misunderstood. It will be a test to see if today’s musician will follow by his example of hard work and unification. James ability to work with others like Pee Wee Ellis and other band members is why he became one of the greatest entertainers of all time. For every great musician is a team who sees the artist’s vision. For James Brown, millions shared his vision.
On Dec. 29th, James Brown casket left Harlem dressed in an electric blue sequined tuxedo and shiny silver boots in a horse drawn white carriage. James Brown would be proud of his people.
Today the casket is closed and folks will never forget James Brown, a legacy.
Copyright 2006. Disilgold. All Rights Reserved.Disilgold@aol.com
How has James Brown inspire your legacy?