... he was 73 years old when he passed away on December 25, 2006 from congestive heart failure resulting from complications of pneumonia.
Besides "The Godfather of Soul," James Joseph Brown was recognized by numerous titles, including Soul Brother Number One, Sex Machine, Mr. Dynamite, The Hardest Working Man in Show Business, The King of Funk, Minister of The New New Super Heavy Funk, Mr. Please Please Please Please Himself, I Feel Good, and foremost The Godfather of Soul. In the song "Sweet Soul Music" by Arthur Conley, he is also described as the King of Soul.
As a prolific singer, songwriter, bandleader and record producer, he was a seminal force in the evolution of gospel and rhythm and blues into soul and funk. He left his mark on numerous other musical genres, including rock, jazz, reggae, disco, dance and electronic music, afro-beat, and hip-hop music.
Brown started singing in gospel groups and worked his way on up. He has been recognized as one of the most influential performers in the 20th century popular music and was renowned for his vocals and feverish dancing. He was also called "the hardest-working man in show business."
A prolific singer, songwriter, dancer and bandleader, Brown was a pivotal force in the music industry, leaving his mark on numerous artists. Even as his own career declined during the height of the golden age of hip hop, Brown's work found new life in the form of digital sampling; he would go on to become the most sampled artist in the history of the genre.
Brown began his professional music career in 1956 and rose to fame during the late 1950s and early 1960s on the strength of his thrilling live performances and string of smash hits. In spite of various personal problems and setbacks he continued to score hits in every decade through the 1980s.
Born into poverty in the South, he ran afoul of the law by the late '40s on an armed robbery conviction. With the help of singer Bobby Byrd's family, Brown gained parole and started a gospel group with Byrd, changing their focus to R&B as the rock revolution gained steam.
The Flames, as the Georgian group was known in the mid-'50s, signed had a huge R&B hit right off the bat with the wrenching, churchy ballad "Please, Please, Please." By that point, the Flames had become James Brown & the Famous Flames.
All of Brown's singles over the next two years flopped, as he sought to establish his own style, He was on the verge of being dropped by his record label in late 1958 when his perseverance finally paid off, as "Try Me" became a number one R&B hit, and several follow-ups established him as a regular visitor to the R&B charts.
Brown's style of R&B got harder as the '60s began; he added more complex, Latin- and jazz-influenced rhythms on hits like "Good Good Lovin'," "I'll Go Crazy," "Think," and "Night Train." He truly started to become a phenomenon with the release of Live at the Apollo in 1963. The album reached number two on the album charts, an unprecedented feat for a hardcore R&B LP.
Brown's new era had truly begun, however, with "Out of Sight," which topped the R&B charts and made the pop Top 40. "Out of Sight" wasn't called funk when it came out, but it had most of the essential ingredients. These were amplified and perfected on 1965's "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," a monster that finally broke Brown to the white audience, reaching the Top Ten. The even more adventurous follow-up, "I Got You (I Feel Good)," did even better, making number three.
These hits kicked off Brown's period of greatest commercial success and public visibility. From 1965 to the end of the decade, he was rarely off the R&B charts, often on the pop listings, and all over the concert circuit and national television.
By the mid-'70s, Brown was beginning to burn out artistically. He seemed out of ideas, was being out-gunned on the charts by disco, and by the '80s, he didn't have a label. With the explosion of rap, however, which frequently sampled vintage J.B.'s records, Brown became hipper than ever. He collaborated with Afrika Bambaataa on the critical smash single "Unity" and reentered the Top Ten in 1986 with "Living in America."