By: Britt L
A major figure of 20th-century music and a pioneer in every genre of music, James Brown has a resume that puts modern day musicians to shame. Nearly six decades deep, Brown has created great dynamics in sound and influenced the entertainment that we today call R&B, soul and most importantly, funk. Over 100 chart-topping songs later, James’ legacy will forever live in the hearts of music lovers and musicians all over the world. Here’s some things you may not have known about the god father of soul.
1. He was mixed?
In his autobiography, “The Godfather of Soul,” James stated that he was of African, Chinese, and Native American ancestry. Guess it was all in the eyes!
2. Born with the wrong name
James’ name was suppose to be “Joseph Brown”, but his first name Joseph and middle name James got switched on his birth certificate in 1933. From then on, his name was just James Brown.
3. Was in jail by the age of sixteen
At sixteen, Brown was convicted of armed robbery and sent to a juvenile detention center in Toccoa, South Carolina. As you can see, he did a good job of making a healthy comeback. With the incarceration trends of today, he may have never seen the light of day again.
4. James’ voice inspired the era of hip hop
By 1969, Brown’s vocals were described as “rhythmic declamations”. In his songs, it was noted that Brown wasn’t singing but he wasn’t talking either. The sudden “stopping and starting” of lyrics featured traces of pitch and melody. This later became a major influence on the techniques of rapping, which influenced the creation of hip hop music in the next twenty years after.
5. Was forced to drop out of seventh grade for wearing “insufficient clothes”
Because James and his siblings were forced to live poorly in the slums of Elko, South Carolina, his mother couldn’t afford proper clothing. So he was always sent home for not having on appropriate attire. He was then forced out of school in the seventh grade.
6. The cause for The Famous Flames break up
In 1955, James and singer Bobby Byrd put together a singing group by the name of “The Famous Flames.” With Brown and Byrd, the group consisted of Sylvester Keels, Doyle Oglesby, Fred Pulliam, Nash Knox and Nafloyd Scott. By 1957, Brown hired manager Ben Bart. The group broke up after Bart decided to change their name to “James Brown and The Famous Flames.”
7. Endorsed Nixon
Brown endorsed the late president Richard Nixon during his 1972 presidential election. His support for the Republican negatively impacted his career during that period, with fans protesting his records and protesting his shows.
8. Buried in a 24 Karat Gold Casket
After his death on December 25, 2006, Brown was buried in a 24 Karat gold casket. There was a great deal of dispute over his estate at the time of his death, leading to a suit filed by his children alleging that his estate had been mismanaged. Part of the confusion resulted from the fact that Brown’s will had been signed a year before his marriage to his last wife, Tomi Rae Hynie.9
9. Started off drug free, and then made some mistakes
Brown was known for having a strict policy against drug and alcohol use among his band members. But in the 1980s, it was reported that Brown himself began using heavy drugs, including cocaine and PCP. There is no explanation for his sudden change of pace, but it cost him dearly. He was arrested for numerous crimes and lost much of the dignity he’d spent his life building. So, his tale is one that reminds us to avoid drugs and alcohol.