Jacob's Ladder: People...You Are The Reason I Am...

James Brown 1933-2006

James Brown, the "Godfather of Soul", whose rasping vocals and revolutionary rhythms made him a founder of rap, funk and disco, died today in Atlanta, aged 73.

Brown’s career spanned six decades. His music was a major influence on modern music, his work being sampled by rap artists from the 1980s to this day, his famous 1960s and 1970s break beats becoming the basis of hip hop.

Brown was born in 1933 in Barnwell, South Carolina.  He endured a troubled childhood that saw the singer abandoned aged four,  forcing him to grow-up with relatives on the streets of Augusta, Georgia.

Whilst at reform school he met Bobby Byrd, an early influence who recruited the singer for his group, the Gospel Starlighters.  They soon changed their name to the Famous Flames, adopting a harder R&B style in the process.

Signed to King Records in January 1956, Brown and the band scored their first hit four months later with 'Please, Please, Please' reaching the R&B top ten.  In 1961 the instrumental 'Night Train' scored a top five R&B hit and showcased what would become known as the ‘James Brown Sound’.

Wider success followed with the release of  'Live At The Apollo' in 1962.  It was recorded at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York City without the approval of his label but it was considered to be among the greatest live albums ever recorded.

By the mid-1960s, with the singer enjoying hits with the likes of ' Papa's Got A Brand New Bag' and 'I Got You (I Feel Good)' he soon became rich, owning restaurants, radio stations and a private jet.

During the late 1960s he created a funkier sound, typified by the now heavily sampled 'Funky Drummer', before he recruited new backing band The JBs for a series of tours and recordings in the 1970s, including his seminal track 'Get Up (I Feel Like Being A Sex Machine)' in 1970.

However his music soon passed out of fashion as disco took over.
Recent UK appearances included both the Glastonbury and T In The Park festivals proving he could mix it with the younger generation of bands, while he appeared in London in November at the BBC Electric Proms, playing the newly re-opened Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, London.

Brown was also inducted into the UK Music Hall Of Fame during that visit, though possibly his most impressive honour is in Augusta where the city changed the name of 9th Street to James Brown Boulevard last year.

Brown is survived by his fourth wife Tomi Raye Hynie - one of his backing singers – with whom he had a son, James Jr,, now aged five.  The singer also has two children by his first wife Velma Warren, and three more by his second, Deidre Jenkins.


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