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James Brown dies at 73 December 27, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Music.

Singer James Brown has died in Atlanta at the age of 73, his agent has told CNN television.

Brown’s agent, Frank Copsidas, says the self-proclaimed “godfather of soul” was admitted to hospital in Atlanta over the weekend with severe pneumonia. The American singer, who billed himself as the hardest-working man in show business, is credited with bringing funk music into the mainstream and influencing a new generation of black music that spawned rap and hip hop.

Brown’s hit Say it Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud) became a civil rights anthem during the turbulent 1960s. He performed the song at former US president Richard Nixon’s inaugural address in 1968, an act that temporarily hurt Brown’s popularity among young black people.

He had more than 119 charting singles and recorded over 50 albums, after starting his music career in jail as a juvenile offender. Brown was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and received a lifetime achievement Grammy award in 1992.

The singer, also known as “Mr Dynamite”, built a successful business empire, including a string of radio stations and his own production company. He owned a fleet of expensive cars and his own plane. Brown even played the role of a manic preacher in the hit 1980 movie The Blues Brothers.

He once said: “Soul is all the hard knocks, all the punishment the black man has had… all the unfulfilled dreams that must come true”.

He was chosen to be a member of former US president Ronald Reagan’s Council Against Drugs but was arrested several times in the mid-1980s and 90s, and charged with drug and weapons possession. By 1988, Brown was back behind bars, sentenced to six years for drug, weapons and vehicular charges after a high-speed car chase through Georgia and South Carolina. The pursuit ended with police shooting out the tires of his truck. He left prison in 1991.

Brown emerged from a boyhood of extreme poverty and petty crime to become one of the biggest record-sellers in rhythm and blues, and later achieved crossover success. His gospel-style voice backed by staccato horns brought a distinctive funky and frenetic sound to black and later, white audiences. One critic described a Brown performance as “feeling and flamboyance fused into calculated spontaneity”. The critic added he danced like a dervish and sang with “an astounding range of primitive emotional sounds – grunts, groans, screeches, screams, wails”.

Brown’s big hits included Please, Please, Please, Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag, I Got You (I Feel Good), Get Up (I feel like being a Sex Machine) and It’s a Man’s World. His 1985 monster hit Living in America, which was featured in the movie Rocky IV, brought him a whole new generation of fans and his first Grammy. Brown combined his soul-rending music with a theatrical delivery.

He also developed a trademark routine in which he would keep coming back on stage after a show and sing a few lines of Please, Please, Please with the sweat pouring from his bare-chested body. His stage crew would throw a cape over his back and he would leave, only to reappear seconds later on his knees, moaning the song into the microphone. The routine would sometimes go on for 30 to 40 minutes and send his fans delirious.

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