Monday, December 25, 2006
James Brown (1933-2006)
James Brown, better known as the Hardest Working Man in Show Business and referred by many as the Godfather of Soul, leaped upon the musical scene in the mid-1950s with his cool, romantic R&B ballads such as "Try Me" and "Please, Please, Please". But he did something highly unique during his generation that would shake the foundations and frontiers of American music. He would become one of the forerunners of soul music and would also become a pioneer of fresher, unique and zesty musical styles such as funk and disco during the late 1960s and 70s. Songs like "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag", "Say It Loud", "Sex Machine" and "I Feel Good" shook the music world completely. That same rumble heard decades ago is still being heard and felt now even in the pop and hip-hop music world as many of artists pay homage and tribute to the Godfather using sampling - an remixing artform using beats and melodies of original songs.
James Brown blessed us all, whether we knew it or not. His musical style and signature moves has influenced generations of musical giants from most genres. Even in gospel music, artists ranging from the more contemporary (Israel Houghton, Hezekiah Walker, John P. Kee, Ricky Dillard) to the familiar traditional (Dorothy Norwood, Keith Wonderboy Johnson, Rev. Milton Biggham, James Bignon, Angela Spivey) have formed their own styles and sets of music around the funky good sounds of the Godfather. And while he never made a career singing gospel music, he drew from its heavy rhythms and the spirited excitement from gospel music and incorporated it into his now-trademark vocal attributes. He literally placed soul music, one of the early descendants of gospel, into the fibers of American music and culture.
James Brown passed away on Christmas Day 2006 (December 25) at the age of 73. He was hospitalized with severe pneumonia at Emory Crawford Long Hospital on Sunday and died of heart failure around 1:45 a.m. He won a Grammy for lifetime achievement in 1992, as well as Grammys in 1965 for "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" (best R&B recording) and for "Living In America" in 1987 (best R&B vocal performance, male.) He was one of the initial artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, along with Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and other founding fathers.