I met James Brown once. He came to a local radio station near my house. I waited for him to come from about 3 thirty till 9 at night. At last, his limo pulled up, and he got out, all smiles. He has a very big presence, especially for a man as small as he is. He was wearing all purple, but none of his purples quite match. When you are the godfather, you do what you want.

He got out, and immediatley began to shake hands. there were only about 20 people left waiting for him, but he was as excited as if there were 1000. He signed my dad's records, then he came to me and offered to sign my record. He pulled out his red sharpie, scribbled something, then smeared the ink. No one saw him smear the ink, except for me. To this day, my dad blames me for the smeared James Brown signature.

I admire James Brown. I have seen him other places, and he is always genuinely excited to meet his fans.

Soul Brother Number One | the Godfather of Soul | the Hardest Working Man in Show Business | Mr. Dynamite

'I don’t care about your past… I just want… our love to last…’

James Joseph Brown was born in the midst of the Great Depression in Barnwell, South Carolina on May 3rd, 1933. His parents were Garner and Susie Behlings Brown. His father was black and Native American and his mother was black and asian. James came into this world appearing to be stillborn, but his Aunt Minnie refused to give up on him and blew air into his lungs until he cried. While he was still young his mother left and James was raised by his father and primarily his Aunt Minnie. When he was five years old his father and aunt went to live with another aunt, Handsome "Honey" Washington in Augusta, Georgia, who ran a brothel. His father left the establishment soon after, but was still in James’ life. To earn money, JB would run errands for Camp Gordon servicemen, pick cotton, shine shoes and dance. James would also bring in patrons, primarily soldiers, for his aunt's brothel. During this time, the future Soul Brother Number One learned to play the harmonica, the piano with one hand, and the drums. At the age of eleven, he entered and won an amateur talent contest at the Lenox Theatre, singing ‘So Long’.

When he was just sixteen, James was sentenced to eight to sixteen years for four counts of breaking, entering and larceny of an automobile. While incarcerated, James had access to a piano, which he had only had access to before via an odd job at a church. James practiced incessantly and gained the nickname 'Music Box' by the boys at the Alto reform school. Through playing baseball in prison he meets pianist Bobby Byrd, with whom he kindles a long and prosperous friendship. James then wrote a letter to the parole board and made a plea that he wanted to sing gospel music after he got out, which resulted in a deal with the warden in which he only served three years of his sentence. After he gets out, at the age of twenty, he joins the gospel group the Gospel Starlighters lead by Bobby Byrd. Bobby and James saw a rhythm and blues show featuring Fats Domino and Hank Ballard and they were inspired to start their own group. As they turn from gospel to R&B they became the Avons, then the Famous Flames, and James became the front man of the group. They toured the South as a black revue in which all members had to play at least two instruments, sing and dance.

'Everybody relax… and watch me work…'

The Famous Flames record "Please Please Please" on November 1st, 1955 at the studio of WIBB in Macon, Georgia, which prompts Ralph Bass to sign the group to King/Federal label in '56. At the time the Famous Flames consisted of Sylvester Keels, Nalfloyd Scott, Johnny Terry and Nashpendle Knox (both vocals), Wilbert Smith and Ray Felder (both saxophone), Clarence Mack (bass) and Edison Gore (drums). That same year, the Flames rerecord 'Please' in the King/Federal studio and it reaches number five on the R&B chart. After this debut success, the group doesn't have a hit again until "Try Me" went to number one on the R&B chart in 1958. This was a good thing as King was looking to cancel their contract otherwise. A tireless touring performer, James Brown and the JB's brought their first live album to the public from a midnight show recorded in 1962 at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, released as 'Live at the Apollo'. James had to put up his own money for this as the record label refused to support it. It was incredibly successful, and made James a full-fledged star. The double album went to number two on Billboard's record chart, setting a precedent for a live rhythm and blues album and making his concerts more popular than ever. It was the first LP in pop history to sell more than one million copies. During these stage shows, JB would sweat off seven pounds a night, and during this time he was performing 300 nights a year, earning him the moniker of the Hardest Working Man in Show Business.

’Ain’t it funky now'

With Papa's Got a Brand New Bag, James Brown not only wins a grammy, but cracks open a new genre of soul transforming it into funk which is explosively popular and transcends the boundaries of R&B charts as he broke into the pop Top Ten. This touched off the funk era, which cannot, of course, be breathed of without giving props to the critical members of the group of the time, such as Pee Wee Ellis, bassist Bootsy Collins, Fred Wesley on keyboard and trombone, and Maceo Parker on sax, most of whom ended up leaving The JB’s to join George Clinton with Parliament and Funkadelic (with the exception of Ellis). This is not unlike the manner in which Hank Ballard lost member of his band to James in the fifties…

Say it loud… I’M BLACK AND I’M PROUD!’

This era was not only pivotal in terms of James’ contribution to music, but he became an icon in the black community, both in word and deed. He contributed to ‘colored’ organizations and supported Martin Luther King Jr. His voice became part and parcel of the civil rights movement, and he didn’t shy away from political statements in his lyrics or in public. Named the most important black man in America in 1969 by Look magazine, Say it loud became a rallying cry

"'Funky is about the injustices, the things that go wrong, the hungry kids going to school trying to learn, Funky is about what it takes to make people move -- take it from the gospel, from the jazz. Thank God that I had the ability to understand that I had a different beat and that I was a drummer."
James Brown
Shake yo' money make-ah!

Through the mid-seventies, the Godfather continued crankin’ them out hot and heavy with hits one after another: Get Up, Super Bad, Hot Pants, Cold Sweat , I Got You (I Feel Good), Make It Funky, Good Foot and The Payback are just a few. If you can manage to sit through any of these songs without moving uncontrollably to the beat you are not human.

‘I don’t want nobody to give me nothing… open up the door –huh- I’ll get it myself!’

The late seventies were a difficult time. JB’s hits seemed to dry up with the advent of disco, which James was unable to attach himself to despite the release of 'The Original Disco Man' in ‘79. He was pursued by the IRS for 4.5 million in back taxes. His son was Teddy was killed in a car wreck and his marriage to Deirdre Jenkins collapsed. Eclipsed by disco, James was nearly forgotten until a cameo appearance in The Blues Brothers revived his career with Rapp Payback.

‘I’m gonna get up and do my thang… I wanna get into it man… you know...’

Anticipating the next wave, James collaborated with Afrika Bambaataa on a 'Unity' a rap album in ’83. I’m not going to go into how many of JB’s songs have been sampled…that’s been done, but just know… it’s been a lot. A LOT. Later in’85 Living in America was a hit with Rocky IV, and won James another grammy. Releases in the late eighties were critically acclaimed, but never really caught on.

'I can make a mere schoolboy forget his books… I can make a world famous beauty neglect her looks… I can make a good man forsake his wife...

In ’87 the great JB was in for another rough time. He was arrested for the fifth time in ten months for drug abuse and was also accused of spousal abuse by his wife. He was later convicted of resisting arrest (he led police on a car chase… always the innovator) and illegal possession of firearms. He was sentenced to six years in jail, though after fifteen months he was released for good behavior to a reintegration center. He left prison in ’91 under the restrictions of not owning any firearms or driving.

’Papa don’t take no mess…’

With the early nineties, Mr. Dynamite slowed down quite a bit, though he still toured up to a week before his dying day. He won a lifetime achievement grammy in ’92. On January 15, 2002, at the age of 68, James married his fourth wife, 32 year old Tomi Rae Hynie, the mother of his son, James Joseph Brown II born December 9, 2001. James is survived by five other children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

The hardest working man in show business laid down on Christmas morning 2006,drew three last breaths and departed this earth. Keeping true to his moniker, the 73 year old had approval from his doctor to perform the following Saturday, and for New Year's Eve at B.B. King's night club. Instead, James passed due to congestive heart failure aggravated by a case of pneumonia.

"I would like to pass on the want to do something," he said. "The need is there. Good lyrics are good things, but I would like to pass on that drive, that invigorous undying determination."

The Stats – ’Can I count if off?’

  • From his repertoire of over 800 songs, James Brown has had 114 entries (some songs appeared multiple times) on Billboard's R&B singles charts and 94 that made the Hot 100 singles chart.
  • He’s had a record 98 entries on Billboard’s top 40 R&B singles charts.
  • He’s had seventeen number one R&B hits, the same number as Aretha Franklin eclipsed by only by Louis Jordan and Stevie Wonder.
  • He is surpassed only by Elvis Presley with hit records

    How can I appreciate Soul Brother Number One, you say? What should I do? What albums should I own? Well, I am far from an expert, but to get started, the original Live at the Apollo is terrific, and the James Brown 40th Anniversary Collection released in ’96 has a nice smattering and all the booty-shakin’ must-haves.

    The Hits (Top 40 and/or R&B) - ’Hit me!’

    I Got You (I Feel Good) | | I Got The Feelin' | | Cold Sweat | | It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World | | Papa's Got a Brand New Bag | | Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud | | Mother Popcorn | | Super Bad | | Give It Up Or Turn It Loose | | Hot Pants | | Get On The Good Foot | | Make It Funky | | The Payback | | Talkin' Loud And Sayin' Nothing | | My Thang | | Papa Don't Take No Mess | | Try Me | | Licking Stick Licking Stick | | Get Up, I Feel Like A Sex Machine | | Let A Man Come In | | Do The Popcorn | | Brother Rapp | | Lost Someone | | Baby You're Right | | I Don't Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing | | Aint It Funky Now (Instrumental) | | Soul Power | | It's A New Day | | There Was A Time | | I Got A Bag Of My Own | | I Got Ants in My Pants | | I Can't Stand Myself | | Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved | | There It Is | | Funky President | | Get Up Offa That Thing | | I Don't Mind | | Don't Be a Drop Out | | Stone The Bone | | Night Train | | Let Yourself Go | | Please Please Please | | Prisonner of Love | | Escape-ism | | King Heroin | | Let A Man Come In | | Do The Popcorn | | Ain't That Groove | | Sexy Sexy Sexy | | Bring It Up | | Think | | I'm A Greedy Man | | Honky Tonk | | World Part 1 | | Bewildered | | Goodbye My Love | | Hustle!!! | | The Popcorn (instrumental) | | Get It Together | | Money Won't Change You | | Down And Out In New York City | | America Is My Home | | Bodyheat | | You've Got The Power | | It's Too Funky In Here | | I Cried | | I Guess I'll Have To Cry Cry Cry | | Lowdown Popcorn | | Sex Machine | | Shout And Shimmy | | Just You And Me, Darling | | What My Baby Needs Now | | Three Heart In A Tangle | | Reality | | Give Me Some Skin | | I Want You So Bad | | Funky Drummer | | This Old Heart | | Kansas City | | Mashed Patatoes | | Like A Baby | | These Foolish Things | | The Spank | | Superbad, Superslick | | Hot (I Need To Be Loved Loved Loved) | | Soul Pride | | Try Me | | Kiss In | | Think (Alternative) | | Eyesight | | I'll Go Crazy | | If You Don't Give A Doggone About It | | Rapp Payback (Where Uz Moses) | | I Refuse To Lose | | You've Got To Change Your Mind | | For Goodness Sakes, Take A Look At...) | | Regrets | | Star Generation | | I Love You (For Sentimental Reason) | | Stay With Me | | Living In America | | Oh, Baby Don't You Weep | | Out Of Sight | | Bells | | Make It Funky | | Signed, Sealed and Delivered | | Tit For Tat (Ain't No Taking Back) | | Spinning Wheel | | Have Mercy, Baby | | I've Got Money | | Lost Someone (Live) | | Caldonia | | Please Please Please (overdubed) || Cold Blooded | | Every Beat Of My Heart | | The Things I Used To Do

    The Sixties

    Please Please Please
    Try Me
    The Amazing James Brown
    James Brown Presents His Band Night Train
    Shout and Shimmy
    JB and His Famous Flames Tour The U.S.A.
    Live at the Apollo
    Prisoner of Love
    Pure Dynamite: Live at the Royal
    Please Please Please (K909 reissue of K610) Grits and Soul
    Out of Sight
    The Unbeatable James Brown -16 Hits (King K919 reissue of K635)
    Papa's Got a Brand New Bag
    I Got You (I Feel Good)
    JB Plays JB Today and Yesterday
    Mighty Instrumentals
    JB Plays New Breed (The Boo- Ga-Loo)
    It's A Man's Man's Man's World
    Christmas Songs
    Handful of Soul
    The James Brown Show
    Raw Soul
    JB Plays the Real Thing
    Live at the Garden
    Cold Sweat
    JB Presents His Show of Tomorrow
    I Can't Stand Myself (When You Touch Me)
    I Got the Feelin'
    JB Plays Nothing But Soul
    Live at the Apollo
    JB Sings Out of Sight (Smash S67109 reissue of S67058, with one track missing)
    Thinking About Little Willie John and a Few Nice Things
    A Soulful Christmas
    Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud
    Gettin' Down To It
    The Popcorn
    It's a Mother

    The Seventies

    Ain't It Funky
    Soul on Top
    It's a New Day - Let a Man Come In
    Sex Machine (Double Album)
    Hey, America
    Super Bad
    Sho Is Funky Down Here
    Hot Pants
    Revolution of the Mind (Live at the Apollo) Vol. 3
    Soul Classics
    There It Is
    Get on the Good Foot
    Black Caesar (Soundtrack)
    Slaughter's Big Rip-off (Soundtrack)
    Soul Classics, Volume 2
    The Payback (double album)
    Sex Machine Today
    Everybody's Doin' the Hustle and Dead on the Double Bump
    Sex Machine Live (Double LP; Polydor PD9004 reissue of`K1115)
    Get Up Offa That Thing
    Mutha's Nature
    Jam 1980's
    The Fabulous James Brown (Double Album)
    Take a Look at Those Cakes
    The Original Disco Man

    The Eighties

    Hot on the One (Double Album)
    Live and Lowdown at the Apollo, Volume 1 (Solid Smoke SS8006 Reissue of K826)
    Soul Syndrome
    Live in New York (Double Album - Live at Studio 54)
    Can Your Heart Stand It?
    The Best of James Brown
    Bring It On
    The Federal Years, Part I
    The Federal Years, Part 2
    Ain't That a Groove - The JB Story 1966-69
    Doing It to Death - The JB Story 1970-73
    Dead on the Heavy Funk 74-76
    The CD of JB: Sex Machine and Other Soul Classics
    Live at the Apollo, Volume 2, Part 1 (Rhino RNLP-217, reissue of record one, K1022)
    Live at the Apollo, Volume 2, Part 2 (Rhino RNLP-218, reissue of record two, K1022)
    Live In Concert
    In The Jungle Groove
    James Brown's Funky People
    Santa's Got A Brand New Bag
    I'm Real
    James Brown's Funky People, Pt.2
    Soul Session Live

    The Nineties

    Love Overdue
    Soul's Alive
    20 All-Time Greatest Hits!
    Messing With The Blues
    Star Time
    Is Back
    Love Power Peace
    Universal James
    Greatest Hits of the Fourth Decade (Scotti Brothers SB75259)
    Can You Get Any Harder (RCA )
    Soul Pride: The Instrumentals (1960)
    Turn It Loose
    Living In America
    James Brown's Funky Christmas
    Try Me
    Funk Power 1970: A Brand New Thang
    Foundations of Funk: A Brand New Bag
    Move On (Scotti Brothers)
    Make It Funky - The Big Payback
    Live At Chastain Park
    Soul Jubilee
    Original Showman Live
    Please, Please, Please/James Brown Live At The Apollo 1995
    Dead On The Heavy Funk
    Original Funky Divas
    I'm Back
    Say It Live and Loud (Live in Dallas)
    Funky People Pt 3
    Nodes about the G-O-S

    Just how old is James, exactly?
    Get on up
    James makes it funky
    on the one
    James Brown is Dead
    James Brown's Celebrity Hot Tub Party
    James Brown sweat
    James Brown sound effects

    Nodes that mention the great JB

    100 Greatest Songs
    100 Most Shocking Moments in Rock 'N' Roll
    Al Sharpton
    Black Power
    chitlin circuit
    Deus Sex Machina
    disco music
    Fred is dead
    funk gland
    funky drummer
    Overused Chord Progressions
    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees
    Rules and Facts of the Faceship
    Sam Cooke
    Take me to the bridge
    The Apollo
    The band, Elwood! The band!
    The Blues Brothers
    The JB's
    The Horny Horns
    Why does MTV suck?

    Nodes about those who have collaborated with or been influenced by Mr. Dynamite

    Afrika Bambaataa || B.B. King || Bobby Byrd || Bootsy Collins || Fred Wesley || Hank Ballard || Little Richard || Maceo Parker || Ron Carter

    Hey… I can’t begin to believe that I’ve found every node or gotten every detail correct, but something had to be done… If some editor with text searching capabilities wants to help me out I’d be much obliged… /msg erevapisces if you’ve got somethin’ for me! P.S. thanks to Pseudo Intellectual who has noded the most JB lyrics of anybody…

    /me sighs exhausted but content…


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