Singer, songwriter, and “the hardest working man in show business,” James Brown, was born on May 3, 1933, in a one-room shack in the woods of Barnwell, South Carolina. Brown was dubbed the “Godfather of Soul,” for his unique vocals and musical style.
James Joe Brown Jr. was born to parents who separated when he was young. At the age of 4, he was sent to Augusta, Georgia, to live with his aunt, who owned a local brothel. Brown grew up in the South during the Great Depression and worked various odd jobs with very minimal pay in order to contribute to family expenses.
At the age of 16, he was arrested and convicted of robbery and sent to a juvenile detention center in Toccoa, Ga., where he served three years. Following his release, Brown tried to put his focus on boxing and semi-professional baseball but that did not last long.
Brown joined the Famous Flames band with close friend Bobby Byrd. The group recorded a demo of the song “Please, Please, Please!” Within months the song reached No. 6 on the R&B charts. The group failed to produce another hit after that.
In fear of losing his record deal, Brown moved to New York and recorded “Try Me.” The song was a success and topped the R&B charts, which kick-started Brown’s solo music career. After this hit, a string of hits soon followed.
Brown was constantly on tour despite a hectic writing and recording schedule. His dedication to performing earned him the moniker of “The Hardest-Working Man in Show Business.”
During the 1960s, Brown started to shift his focus to social causes. He dedicated more effort and energy to the struggle of Black people and recorded songs like “Don’t Be a Dropout,” an eloquent call for the black community to place more focus on education and “Say It Loud: I’m Black and I’m Proud!” which was a protest anthem that inspired many generations.
Brown recorded other hits such as “Sex Machine” and “Get Up Offa That Thing.” But in the late 1970s, his career was on the decline, primarily due to the rise of disco. But he never stopped performing and touring.
In 1986, Brown was among the inaugural class inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (which included Sam Cooke, Fats Domino, Elvis, Chuck Barry and Ray Charles).
Brown served as an inspiration for many artists, from Prince to Michael Jackson and he was an advocate for the Afric