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James Brown

American singer-songwriter, dancer, music mogul

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James Brown
Brown performing in Hamburg, Germany, in February 1973
Born
James Joseph Brown Jr.

(1933-05-03)May 3, 1933
DiedDecember 25, 2006(2006-12-25) (aged 73)
Occupation
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • dancer
  • musician
  • record producer
Spouse(s)
  • Velma Warren
    (m. 1953; div. 1969)
  • Deidre Jenkins
    (m. 1970; div. 1981)
  • Adrienne Rodriguez
    (m. 1984; died 1996)
  • (m. 2001)
Children9 (possibly 13; see below)
Musical career
Genres
Instruments
  • Vocals
  • keyboards
  • drums
  • harmonica
  • guitar
Years active
  • 1953–2006
Labels
Associated acts
Websitejamesbrown.com

James Joseph Brown (May 3, 1933 – December 25, 2006) was an American singer, songwriter, dancer, musician, record producer and bandleader. The central progenitor of funk music and a major figure of 20th-century music, he is often referred to by the honorific nicknames "Godfather of Soul", "Mr. Dynamite", and "Soul Brother No. 1".[1] In a career that lasted over 50 years, he influenced the development of several music genres.[2] Brown was one of the first ten inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at its inaugural induction in New York on January 23, 1986.

Brown began his career as a gospel singer in Toccoa, Georgia.[3] He came to national public attention in the mid-1950s as the lead singer of the Famous Flames, a rhythm and blues vocal group founded by Bobby Byrd.[4][5] 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, emphasizing stripped-down interlocking rhythms, that influenced the development of funk music.[6] 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 recorded 17 singles that reached No. 1 on the Billboard R&B charts.[7][8] He also holds the record for the most singles listed on the Billboard Hot 100 chart which did not reach No. 1.[9][10] Brown was inducted into the first class of the Rhythm & Blues Music Hall of Fame in 2013 as an artist and then in 2017 as a songwriter. He also received honors from several other institutions, including inductions into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.[11] 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.[12] He is ranked seventh on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.[13]

James Brown Intro articles: 16

Early life

Brown was born on May 3, 1933, in Barnwell, South Carolina, to 16-year-old Susie (née Behling; 1916–2004) and 21-year-old Joseph Gardner Brown (1912–1993) 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 had Chinese and Native American ancestry and that his father was of mixed African-American and Native American descent, while 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.[9] 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 released on a work sponsorship with Toccoa business owner S.C. Lawson. Lawson was impressed with Brown's work ethic and secured his release with a promise to keep him employed for two years. Brown was paroled on June 14, 1952.[25] He would go on to work with both of Lawson's sons, and would come back to visit the family from time to time throughout his career. Shortly after being paroled he joined the gospel group the Ever-Ready Gospel Singers, featuring Byrd's sister Sarah.[26]

James Brown Early life articles: 9

Music career

1953–1961: The Famous Flames

Brown eventually joined Byrd's group in 1954. The group had evolved from the Gospel Starlighters, an a cappella gospel group, to an R&B group with the name the Avons.[27] He reputedly joined the band after one of its members, Troy Collins, died in a car crash.[28] Along with Brown and Byrd, the group consisted of Sylvester Keels, Doyle Oglesby, Fred Pulliam, Nash Knox and Nafloyd Scott. Influenced by R&B groups such as Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, the Orioles and Billy Ward and his Dominoes, the group changed its name, first to the Toccoa Band and then to the Flames.[29][28] Nafloyd's brother Baroy later joined the group on bass guitar, and Brown, Byrd and Keels switched lead positions and instruments, often playing drums and piano. Johnny Terry later joined, by which time Pulliam and Oglesby had long left.[30]

Berry Trimier became the group's first manager, booking them at parties near college campuses in Georgia and South Carolina.[31] The group had already gained a reputation as a good live act when they renamed themselves the Famous Flames.[32] In 1955, the group had contacted Little Richard while performing in Macon.[33] Richard convinced the group to get in contact with his manager at the time, Clint Brantley, at his nightclub.[34] Brantley agreed to manage them after seeing the group audition.[35] He then sent them to a local radio station to record a demo session, where they performed their own composition "Please, Please, Please", which was inspired when Little Richard wrote the words of the title on a napkin and Brown was determined to make a song out of it.[35][36][37] The Famous Flames eventually signed with King Records' Federal subsidiary in Cincinnati, Ohio, and issued a re-recorded version of "Please, Please, Please" in March 1956. The song became the group's first R&B hit, selling over a million copies.[38] None of their follow-ups gained similar success. By 1957, Brown had replaced Clint Brantley as manager and hired Ben Bart, chief of Universal Attractions Agency. That year the original Flames broke up, after Bart changed the name of the group to "James Brown and The Famous Flames".[39]

In October 1958, Brown released the ballad "Try Me", which hit number one on the R&B chart in the beginning of 1959, becoming the first of seventeen chart-topping R&B hits.[40] Shortly afterwards, he recruited his first band, led by J. C. Davis, and reunited with Bobby Byrd who joined a revived Famous Flames lineup that included Eugene "Baby" Lloyd Stallworth and Bobby Bennett, with Johnny Terry sometimes coming in as the "fifth Flame". Brown, the Flames, and his entire band debuted at the Apollo Theater on April 24, 1959, opening for Brown's idol, Little Willie John.[28][41] Federal Records issued two albums credited to Brown and the Famous Flames (both contained previously released singles). By 1960, Brown began multi-tasking in the recording studio involving himself, his singing group, the Famous Flames, and his band, a separate entity from The Flames, sometimes named the James Brown Orchestra or the James Brown Band. That year the band released the top ten R&B hit "(Do the) Mashed Potatoes" on Dade Records, owned by Henry Stone, billed under the pseudonym "Nat Kendrick & the Swans" due to label issues.[42] As a result of its success, King president Syd Nathan shifted Brown's contract from Federal to the parent label, King, which according to Brown in his autobiography meant "you got more support from the company". While with King, Brown, under the Famous Flames lineup, released the hit-filled album Think! and the following year released two albums with the James Brown Band earning second billing. With the Famous Flames, Brown sang lead on several more hits, including "I'll Go Crazy" and "Think", songs that hinted at his emerging style.[28]

1962–1966: Mr. Dynamite

In 1962, Brown and his band scored a hit with their cover of the instrumental "Night Train", becoming a top five R&B single. That same year, the ballads "Lost Someone" and "Baby You're Right", the latter a Joe Tex composition, added to his repertoire and increased his reputation with R&B audiences. On October 24, 1962, Brown financed a live recording of a performance at the Apollo and convinced Syd Nathan to release the album, despite Nathan's belief that no one would buy a live album due to the fact that Brown's singles had already been bought and that live albums were usually bad sellers.

Brown (middle) and The Famous Flames (far left to right, Bobby Bennett, Lloyd Stallworth, and Bobby Byrd), performing live at the Apollo Theater in New York City, 1964

Live at the Apollo was released the following June and became an immediate hit, eventually reaching number two on the Top LPs chart and selling over a million copies, staying on the charts for 14 months.[43] In 1963, Brown scored his first top 20 pop hit with his rendition of the standard "Prisoner of Love". He also launched his first label, Try Me Records, which included recordings by the likes of Tammy Montgomery (later to be famous as Tammi Terrell), Johnny & Bill (Famous Flames associates Johnny Terry and Bill Hollings) and the Poets, which was another name used for Brown's backing band.[28] During this time Brown began an ill-fated two-year relationship with 17-year-old Tammi Terrell when she sang in his revue. Terrell ended their personal and professional relationship because of his abusive behavior.[44]

In 1964, seeking bigger commercial success, Brown and Bobby Byrd formed the production company, Fair Deal, linking the operation to the Mercury imprint, Smash Records.[28][45] King Records, however, fought against this and was granted an injunction preventing Brown from releasing any recordings for the label. Prior to the injunction, Brown had released three vocal singles, including the blues-oriented hit "Out of Sight", which further indicated the direction his music was going to take.[46] Touring throughout the year, Brown and the Famous Flames grabbed more national attention after giving an explosive show-stopping performance on the live concert film The T.A.M.I. Show. The Flames' dynamic gospel-tinged vocals, polished choreography and timing as well as Brown's energetic dance moves and high-octane singing upstaged the proposed closing act, the Rolling Stones.

Having signed a new deal with King, Brown released his song "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" in 1965, which became his first top ten pop hit and won him his first Grammy Award.[47] Brown also signed a production deal with Loma Records.[48] Later in 1965, he issued "I Got You", which became his second single in a row to reach number-one on the R&B chart and top ten on the pop chart. Brown followed that up with the ballad "It's a Man's Man's Man's World", a third Top 10 Pop hit (No. 1 R&B) which confirmed his stance as a top-ranking performer, especially with R&B audiences from that point on.[47]

1967–1970: Soul Brother No. 1

By 1967, Brown's emerging sound had begun to be defined as funk music. That year he released what some critics cited as the first true funk song, "Cold Sweat", which hit number-one on the R&B chart (Top 10 Pop) and became one of his first recordings to contain a drum break and also the first that featured a harmony that was reduced to a single chord.[49][50] The instrumental arrangements on tracks such as "Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose" and "Licking Stick-Licking Stick" (both recorded in 1968) and "Funky Drummer" (recorded in 1969) featured a more developed version of Brown's mid-1960s style, with the horn section, guitars, bass and drums meshed together in intricate rhythmic patterns based on multiple interlocking riffs.

Changes in Brown's style that started with "Cold Sweat" also established the musical foundation for Brown's later hits, such as "I Got the Feelin'" (1968) and "Mother Popcorn" (1969). By this time Brown's vocals frequently took the form of a kind of rhythmic declamation, not quite sung but not quite spoken, that only intermittently featured traces of pitch or melody. This would become a major influence on the techniques of rapping, which would come to maturity along with hip hop music in the coming decades. Brown's style of funk in the late 1960s was based on interlocking syncopated parts: strutting bass lines, syncopated drum patterns, and iconic percussive guitar riffs.[51] The main guitar ostinatos for "Ain't It Funky" and "Give It Up or Turn It Loose" (both 1969), are examples of Brown's refinement of New Orleans funk; irresistibly danceable riffs, stripped down to their rhythmic essence. On both recordings the tonal structure is bare bones. The pattern of attack-points is the emphasis, not the pattern of pitches, as if the guitar were an African drum, or idiophone. Alexander Stewart states that this popular feel was passed along from "New Orleans—through James Brown's music, to the popular music of the 1970s".[52] Those same tracks were later resurrected by countless hip-hop musicians from the 1970s onward. As a result, James Brown remains to this day the world's most sampled recording artist, but, two tracks that he wrote, are also synonymous with modern dance, especially with house music, jungle music, and drum and bass music, (which were sped up exponentially, in the latter two genres).

"Bring it Up" has an Afro-Cuban guajeo-like structure. All three of these guitar riffs are based on an onbeat/offbeat structure. Stewart says that it "is different from a time line (such as clave and tresillo) in that it is not an exact pattern, but more of a loose organizing principle."[53]

It was around this time as the musician's popularity increased that he acquired the nickname "Soul Brother No. 1", after failing to win the title "King of Soul" from Solomon Burke during a Chicago gig two years prior.[54] Brown's recordings during this period influenced musicians across the industry, most notably groups such as Sly and the Family Stone, Funkadelic, Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, Booker T. & the M.G.s as well as vocalists such as Edwin Starr, David Ruffin and Dennis Edwards from The Temptations, and Michael Jackson, who, throughout his career, cited Brown as his ultimate idol.[55]

Brown's band during this period employed musicians and arrangers who had come up through the jazz tradition. He was noted for his ability as a bandleader and songwriter to blend the simplicity and drive of R&B with the rhythmic complexity and precision of jazz. Trumpeter Lewis Hamlin and saxophonist/keyboardist Alfred "Pee Wee" Ellis (the successor to previous bandleader Nat Jones) led the band. Guitarist Jimmy Nolen provided percussive, deceptively simple riffs for each song, and Maceo Parker's prominent saxophone solos provided a focal point for many performances. Other members of Brown's band included stalwart Famous Flames singer and sideman Bobby Byrd, trombonist Fred Wesley, drummers John "Jabo" Starks, Clyde Stubblefield and Melvin Parker, saxophonist St. Clair Pinckney, guitarist Alphonso "Country" Kellum and bassist Bernard Odum.

In addition to a torrent of singles and studio albums, Brown's output during this period included two more successful live albums, Live at the Garden (1967) and Live at the Apollo, Volume II (1968), and a 1968 television special, James Brown: Man to Man. His music empire expanded along with his influence on the music scene. As Brown's music empire grew, his desire for financial and artistic independence grew as well. Brown bought radio stations during the late 1960s, including WRDW in his native Augusta, where he shined shoes as a boy.[47] In November 1967, James Brown purchased radio station WGYW in Knoxville, Tennessee, for a reported $75,000, according to the January 20, 1968 Record World magazine. The call letters were changed to WJBE reflecting his initials. WJBE began on January 15, 1968, and broadcast a Rhythm & Blues format. The station slogan was "WJBE 1430 Raw Soul". Brown also bought WEBB in Baltimore in 1970.

Brown performing in 1973

Brown branched out to make several recordings with musicians outside his own band. In an attempt to appeal to the older, more affluent, and predominantly white adult contemporary audience, Brown recorded Gettin' Down To It (1969) and Soul on Top (1970)—two albums consisting mostly of romantic ballads, jazz standards, and homologous reinterpretations of his earlier hits—with the Dee Felice Trio and the Louie Bellson Orchestra. In 1968, he recorded a number of funk-oriented tracks with The Dapps, a white Cincinnati band, including the hit "I Can't Stand Myself". He also released three albums of Christmas music with his own band.

1970–1975: Godfather of Soul

In March 1970, most of Brown's mid-to-late 1960s road band walked out on him due to money disputes, a development augured by the prior disbandment of The Famous Flames singing group for the same reason in 1968. Brown and erstwhile Famous Flames singer Bobby Byrd (who chose to remain in the band during this tumultuous period) subsequently recruited several members of the Cincinnati-based The Pacemakers, which included Bootsy Collins and his brother Phelps "Catfish" Collins; augmented by the remaining members of the 1960s road band (including Fred Wesley, who rejoined Brown's outfit in December 1970) and other newer musicians, they would form the nucleus of The J.B.'s, Brown's new backing ensemble. Shortly following their first performance together, the band entered the studio to record the Brown-Byrd composition, "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine"; the song and other contemporaneous singles would further cement Brown's influence in the nascent genre of funk music. This iteration of the J.B.'s dissolved after a March 1971 European tour (documented on the 1991 archival release Love Power Peace) due to additional money disputes and Bootsy Collins' use of LSD; the Collins brothers would soon become integral members of Parliament-Funkadelic, while a new lineup of the J.B.'s coalesced around Wesley, St. Clair Pinckney and drummer John Starks.

Brown with a disc jockey after a concert in Tampa in 1972

In 1971, Brown began recording for Polydor Records which also took over distribution of Brown's King Records catalog. Many of his sidemen and supporting players, including Fred Wesley & the J.B.'s, Bobby Byrd, Lyn Collins, Vicki Anderson and former rival Hank Ballard, released records on the People label, an imprint founded by Brown that was purchased by Polydor as part of Brown's new contract. The recordings on the People label, almost all of which were produced by Brown himself, exemplified the mature flowering of his "house style". Several tracks thought by critics to be excessively sexual were released at this time. He would later soften his vocal approach. Songs such as "I Know You Got Soul" by Bobby Byrd, "Think" by Lyn Collins and "Doing It to Death" by Fred Wesley & the J.B.'s are considered as much a part of Brown's recorded legacy as the recordings released under his own name. That year, he also began touring African countries and was received well by audiences there. During the 1972 presidential election, James Brown openly proclaimed his support of Richard Nixon for reelection to the presidency over Democratic candidate George McGovern.[56] The decision led to a boycott of his performances and, according to Brown, cost him a big portion of his black audience.[57] As a result, Brown's record sales and concerts in the United States reached a lull in 1973 as he failed to land a number-one R&B single that year. Brown relied more on touring outside the United States where he continued to perform for sold-out crowds in cities such as London, Paris and Lausanne. That year he also faced problems with the IRS for failure to pay back taxes, charging he hadn't paid upwards of $4.5 million; five years earlier, the IRS had claimed he owed nearly $2 million.[58]

In 1973, Brown provided the score for the blaxploitation film Black Caesar. He also recorded another soundtrack for the film, Slaughter's Big Rip-Off. Following the release of these soundtracks, Brown acquired a self-styled nickname, "The Godfather of Soul", which remains his most popular nickname. In 1974 he returned to the No. 1 spot on the R&B charts with "The Payback", with the parent album reaching the same spot on the album charts; he would reach No. 1 two more times in 1974, with "My Thang" and "Papa Don't Take No Mess". Later that year, he returned to Africa and performed in Kinshasa as part of the buildup to The Rumble in the Jungle fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. Admirers of Brown's music, including Miles Davis and other jazz musicians, began to cite him as a major influence on their own styles. However, Brown, like others who were influenced by his music, also "borrowed" from other musicians. His 1976 single, "Hot (I Need To Be Loved, Loved, Loved, Loved)" (R&B No. 31), interpolated the main riff from "Fame" by David Bowie while omitting any attribution to the latter song's composers (including Bowie, John Lennon and guitarist Carlos Alomar), not the other way around as was often believed. The riff was composed by Alomar, who had briefly been a member of Brown's band in the late 1960s.[59]

"Papa Don't Take No Mess" would prove to be his final single to reach the No. 1 spot on the R&B charts and his final Top 40 pop single of the 1970s, though he continued to occasionally have Top 10 R&B recordings. Among his top ten R&B hits during this latter period included "Funky President" (R&B No. 4) and "Get Up Offa That Thing" (R&B No. 4), the latter song released in 1976 and aimed at musical rivals such as Barry White, The Ohio Players and K.C. and the Sunshine Band. Brown credited his then-wife and two of their children as writers of the song to avoid concurrent tax problems with the IRS. Starting in October 1975, Brown produced, directed, and hosted Future Shock, an Atlanta-based television variety show that ran for three years.

1975–1991: Decline and resurgence

James Brown (1977)

Although his records were mainstays of the vanguard New York underground disco scene (exemplified by DJs such as David Mancuso and Francis Grasso) from 1969 onwards, Brown did not consciously yield to the trend until 1975's Sex Machine Today. By 1977, he was no longer a dominant force in R&B. After "Get Up Offa That Thing", thirteen of Brown's late 1970s recordings for Polydor failed to reach the Top 10 of the R&B chart, with only "Bodyheat" in 1976 and the disco-oriented "It's Too Funky in Here" in 1979 reaching the R&B Top 15 and the ballad "Kiss in '77" reaching the Top 20. After 1976's "Bodyheat", he also failed to appear on the Billboard Hot 100. As a result, Brown's concert attendance began dropping and his reported disputes with the IRS caused his business empire to collapse. In addition, Brown's former bandmates, including Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker and the Collins brothers, had found bigger success as members of George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic collective. The emergence of disco also stopped Brown's success on the R&B charts because its slicker, more commercial style had superseded his more raw funk productions.

By the release of 1979's The Original Disco Man, Brown was not providing much production or writing, leaving most of it to producer Brad Shapiro, resulting in the song "It's Too Funky in Here" becoming Brown's most successful single in this period. After two more albums failed to chart, Brown left Polydor in 1981. It was around this time that Brown changed the name of his band from the J.B.'s to the Soul Generals (or Soul G's). The band retained that name until his death. Despite Brown's declining record sales, promoters Gary LoConti and Jim Rissmiller helped Brown sell out a string of residency shows shows at the Country Club in Reseda. Brown's compromised commercial standing prevented him from charging a large live fee to the promoters for these shows. However, the great success of these shows marked a turning point for Brown's career, and soon he was back on top in Hollywood. Movies followed, starting with appearances in the feature films The Blues Brothers, Doctor Detroit and Rocky IV, as well as guest-starring in the Miami Vice episode "Missing Hours" (1987). In 1984, he teamed with rap musician Afrika Bambaattaa on the song "Unity". A year later he signed with Scotti Brothers Records and issued the moderately successful album Gravity in 1986. It included Brown's final Top 10 pop hit, "Living in America", marking his first Top 40 entry since 1974 and his first Top 10 pop entry since 1968. Produced and written by Dan Hartman, it was also featured prominently on the Rocky IV film and soundtrack. Brown performed the song in the film at Apollo Creed's final fight, shot in the Ziegfeld Room at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, and was credited in the film as "The Godfather of Soul". 1986 also saw the publication of his autobiography, James Brown: The Godfather of Soul, co-written with Bruce Tucker. In 1987, Brown won the Grammy for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for "Living in America".

In 1988, Brown worked with the production team Full Force on the new jack swing-influenced I'm Real. It spawned his final two Top 10 R&B hits, "I'm Real" and "Static", which peaked at No. 2 and No. 5, respectively, on the R&B charts. Meanwhile, the drum break from the second version of the original 1969 hit "Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose" (the recording included on the compilation album In the Jungle Groove) became so popular at hip hop dance parties (especially for breakdance) during the early 1980s that hip hop pioneer Kurtis Blow called the song "the national anthem of hip hop".[60]

1991–2006: Final years

Brown performing in 1998

After his stint in prison during the late 1980s, Brown met Larry Fridie and Thomas Hart who produced the first James Brown biopic, entitled James Brown: The Man, the Message, the Music, released in 1992.[61] He returned to music with the album Love Over-Due in 1991. It included the single "(So Tired of Standing Still We Got to) Move On", which peaked at No. 48 on the R&B chart. His former record label Polydor also released the four-CD box set Star Time, spanning Brown's career to date. Brown's release from prison also prompted his former record labels to reissue his albums on CD, featuring additional tracks and commentary by music critics and historians. That same year, Brown appeared on rapper MC Hammer's video for "Too Legit to Quit". Hammer had been noted, alongside Big Daddy Kane, for bringing Brown's unique stage shows and their own energetic dance moves to the hip-hop generation; both listed Brown as their idol. Both musicians also sampled his work, with Hammer having sampled the rhythms from "Super Bad" for his song "Here Comes the Hammer", from his best-selling album Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em. Big Daddy Kane sampled many times. Before the year was over, Brown–who had immediately returned to work with his band following his release–organized a pay-per-view concert following a show at Los Angeles' Wiltern Theatre, that was well received.

On June 10, 1991, James Brown and a star-filled line up performed before a crowd at the Wiltern Theatre for a live pay-per-view at-home audience. James Brown: Living in America – Live! was the brainchild of Indiana producer Danny Hubbard. It featured M.C. Hammer as well as Bell Biv Devoe, Heavy D & the Boys, En Vogue, C+C Music Factory, Quincy Jones, Sherman Hemsley and Keenen Ivory Wayans. Ice-T, Tone Loc and Kool Moe Dee performed paying homage to Brown. This was Brown's first public performance since his parole from the South Carolina prison system in February. He had served two-and-a-half years of two concurrent six-year sentences for aggravated assault and other felonies.

Brown continued making recordings. In 1993 his album Universal James was released. It included his final Billboard charting single, "Can't Get Any Harder", which peaked at No. 76 on the US R&B chart and reached No. 59 on the UK chart. Its brief charting in the UK was probably due to the success of a remixed version of "I Feel Good" featuring Dakeyne. Brown also released the singles "How Long" and "Georgia-Lina", which failed to chart. In 1995, Brown returned to the Apollo and recorded Live at the Apollo 1995. It included a studio track titled "Respect Me", which was released as a single; again it failed to chart. Brown's final studio albums, I'm Back and The Next Step, were released in 1998 and 2002 respectively. I'm Back featured the song "Funk on Ah Roll", which peaked at No. 40 in the UK but did not chart in his native US. The Next Step included Brown's final single, "Killing Is Out, School Is In". Both albums were produced by Derrick Monk. Brown's concert success, however, remained unabated and he kept up with a grueling schedule throughout the remainder of his life, living up to his previous nickname, "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business", in spite of his advanced age. In 2003, Brown participated in the PBS American Masters television documentary James Brown: Soul Survivor, which was directed by Jeremy Marre.

Brown during the NBA All-Star Game jam session, 2001

Brown performed in the Super Bowl XXXI halftime show.

Brown celebrated his status as an icon by appearing in a variety of entertainment and sports events, including an appearance on the WCW pay-per-view event, SuperBrawl X, where he danced alongside wrestler Ernest "The Cat" Miller, who based his character on Brown, during his in-ring skit with The Maestro. Brown then appeared in Tony Scott's short film Beat the Devil in 2001. He was featured alongside Clive Owen, Gary Oldman, Danny Trejo and Marilyn Manson. Brown also made a cameo appearance in the 2002 Jackie Chan film The Tuxedo, in which Chan was required to finish Brown's act after having accidentally knocked out the singer. In 2002, Brown appeared in Undercover Brother, playing himself.

Brown performing in June 2005

In 2004, Brown performed in Hyde Park, London as a support act for Red Hot Chili Peppers concerts.[62] The beginning of 2005 saw the publication of Brown's second book, I Feel Good: A Memoir of a Life of Soul, written with Marc Eliot. In February and March, he participated in recording sessions for an intended studio album with Fred Wesley, Pee Wee Ellis, and other longtime collaborators. Though he lost interest in the album, which remains unreleased, a track from the sessions, "Gut Bucket", appeared on a compilation CD included with the August 2006 issue of MOJO.[63] He appeared at Edinburgh 50,000 – The Final Push, the final Live 8 concert on July 6, 2005, where he performed a duet with British pop star Will Young on "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag". The previous week he had performed a duet with another British pop star, Joss Stone, on the United Kingdom chat show Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. In 2006, Brown continued his "Seven Decades of Funk World Tour", his last concert tour where he performed all over the world. His final U.S. performances were in San Francisco on August 20, 2006, as headliner at the Festival of the Golden Gate (Foggfest) on the Great Meadow at Fort Mason. The following day, August 21, he performed at Humboldt State University in Arcata, CA, at a small theatre (800 seats) on campus. His last shows were greeted with positive reviews, and one of his final concert appearances at the Irish Oxegen festival in Punchestown in 2006 was performed for a record crowd of 80,000 people. He played a full concert as part of the BBC's Electric Proms on October 27, 2006, at The Roundhouse,[64] supported by The Zutons, with special appearances from Max Beasley and The Sugababes.

Brown's last televised appearance was at his induction into the UK Music Hall of Fame in November 2006, before his death the following month. Before his death, Brown had been scheduled to perform a duet with singer Annie Lennox on the song "Vengeance" for her new album Venus, which was released in 2007.

James Brown Music career articles: 229

Later life and death

Illness

James Brown memorial in Augusta, Georgia

On December 23, 2006, Brown became very ill and arrived at his dentist's office in Atlanta, Georgia, several hours late. His appointment was for dental implant work. During that visit, Brown's dentist observed that he looked "very bad ... weak and dazed". Instead of performing the work, the dentist advised Brown to see a doctor right away about his medical condition.[65]

Brown went to the Emory Crawford Long Memorial Hospital the next day for medical evaluation and was admitted for observation and treatment.[66] According to Charles Bobbit, his longtime personal manager and friend, Brown had been struggling with a noisy cough since returning from a November trip to Europe. Yet, Bobbit said, the singer had a history of never complaining about being sick and often performed while ill.[65] Although Brown had to cancel upcoming concerts in Waterbury, Connecticut, and Englewood, New Jersey, he was confident that the doctor would discharge him from the hospital in time for his scheduled New Year's Eve shows at the Count Basie Theatre in New Jersey and the B. B. King Blues Club in New York, in addition to performing a song live on CNN for the Anderson Cooper New Year's Eve special.[66] Brown remained hospitalized, however, and his condition worsened throughout the day.

Death

On Christmas Day 2006, Brown died at approximately 1:45 a.m. EST (06:45 UTC),[15] at age 73, from congestive heart failure, resulting from complications of pneumonia. Bobbit was at his bedside[67] and later reported that Brown stuttered, "I'm going away tonight", then took three long, quiet breaths and fell asleep before dying.[68]

In 2019, an investigation by CNN and other journalists led to suggestions that Brown had been murdered.[69][70][71][72][73]

Memorial services

Public memorial at the Apollo Theater in Harlem
Public funeral in Augusta, Georgia, with Michael Jackson attending

After Brown's death, his relatives, a host of celebrities, and thousands of fans gathered, on December 28, 2006, for a public memorial service at the Apollo Theater in New York City and, on December 30, 2006, at the James Brown Arena in Augusta, Georgia. A separate, private ceremony was held in North Augusta, South Carolina, on December 29, 2006, with Brown's family in attendance. Celebrities at these various memorial events included Michael Jackson, Jimmy Cliff, Joe Frazier, Buddy Guy, Ice Cube, Ludacris, Dr. Dre, Little Richard, Dick Gregory, MC Hammer, Prince, Jesse Jackson, Ice-T, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bootsy Collins, LL Cool J, Lil Wayne, Lenny Kravitz, 50 Cent, Stevie Wonder, and Don King.[74][75][76][77] Rev. Al Sharpton officiated at all of Brown's public and private memorial services.[78][79]

Brown's memorial ceremonies were all elaborate, complete with costume changes for the deceased and videos featuring him in concert. His body, placed in a Promethean casket—bronze polished to a golden shine—was driven through the streets of New York to the Apollo Theater in a white, glass-encased horse-drawn carriage.[80][81] In Augusta, Georgia, his memorial procession stopped to pay respects at his statue, en route to the James Brown Arena. During the public memorial there, a video showed Brown's last performance in Augusta, Georgia, with the Ray Charles version of "Georgia on My Mind" playing soulfully in the background.[74][75][82] His last backup band, The Soul Generals, also played some of his hits during that tribute at the arena. The group was joined by Bootsy Collins on bass, with MC Hammer performing a dance in James Brown style.[83] Former Temptations lead singer Ali-Ollie Woodson performed "Walk Around Heaven All Day" at the memorial services.[84]

Last will and testament

Brown signed his last will and testament on August 1, 2000, before J. Strom Thurmond Jr., an attorney for the estate.[85] The irrevocable trust, separate and apart from Brown's will, was created on his behalf, that same year, by his attorney, Albert "Buddy" Dallas, one of three personal representatives of Brown's estate. His will covered the disposition of his personal assets, such as clothing, cars, and jewelry, while the irrevocable trust covered the disposition of the music rights, business assets of James Brown Enterprises, and his Beech Island, South Carolina estate.[86]

During the reading of the will on January 11, 2007, Thurmond revealed that Brown's six adult living children (Terry Brown, Larry Brown, Daryl Brown, Yamma Brown Lumar, Deanna Brown Thomas and Venisha Brown) were named in the document, while Hynie and James II were not mentioned as heirs.[85][87] Brown's will had been signed 10 months before James II was born and more than a year before Brown's marriage to Tomi Rae Hynie. Like Brown's will, his irrevocable trust omitted Hynie and James II as recipients of Brown's property. The irrevocable trust had also been established before, and not amended since, the birth of James II.[88]

On January 24, 2007, Brown's children filed a lawsuit, petitioning the court to remove the personal representatives from the estate (including Brown's attorney, as well as trustee Albert "Buddy" Dallas) and appoint a special administrator because of perceived impropriety and alleged mismanagement of Brown's assets.[89][90] On January 31, 2007, Hynie also filed a lawsuit against Brown's estate, challenging the validity of the will and the irrevocable trust. Hynie's suit asked the court both to recognize her as Brown's widow and to appoint a special administrator for the estate.[91]

On January 27, 2015, Judge Doyet Early III ruled that Tomi Rae Hynie Brown was officially the widow of James Brown. The decision was based on the grounds that Hynie's previous marriage was invalid and that James Brown had abandoned his efforts to annul his own marriage to Hynie.[92][93]

On February 19, 2015, the South Carolina Supreme Court intervened, halting all lower court actions in the estate and undertaking to review previous actions itself.[94] The South Carolina Court of Appeals in July 2018 ruled that Hynie was, in fact, Mr. Brown's wife.[95]