"My music wasn't written by Mozart, Beethoven, Bach or Schubert. It's written by God and me. They go "a one and a two and up." We start on the downbeat. Bam! And that's where we got them." -James Brown
James Joseph Brown (May 3, 1933 – December 25, 2006) was an American singer, songwriter, dancer, musician, record producer and bandleader. A progenitor of funk music and a major figure of 20th century popular music and dance, he is often referred to as the "Godfather of Soul". In a career that lasted 50 years, he influenced the development of several music genres.
Brown began his career as a gospel singer in Toccoa, Georgia. He joined an R&B vocal group, the Gospel Starlighters (which later evolved into the Flames) founded by Bobby Byrd, in which he was the lead singer. First coming to national public attention in the late 1950s as a member of the singing group The Famous Flames with the hit ballads "Please, Please, Please" and "Try Me", Brown built a reputation as a tireless live performer with the Famous Flames and his backing band, sometimes known as the James Brown Band or the James Brown Orchestra. His success peaked in the 1960s with the live album Live at the Apollo and hit singles such as "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag", "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and "It's a Man's Man's Man's World"
Brown recorded 17 singles that reached number one on the Billboard R&B charts. He also holds the record for the most singles listed on the Billboard Hot 100 chart which did not reach number one. Brown has received honors from many institutions, including inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame. In Joel Whitburn's analysis of the Billboard R&B charts from 1942 to 2010, James Brown is ranked as number one in The Top 500 Artists. He is ranked seventh on the music magazine Rolling Stone's list of its 100 greatest artists of all time. Rolling Stone has also cited Brown as the most sampled artist of all time.
Why is James Brown important?
The real story with Brown is the way in which he revolutionized music, influencing just about every strain of pop music that would follow. He influenced musicians like Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Prince, and Public Enemy, among others. According to the man himself, "Disco is James Brown, hip-hop is James Brown, rap is James Brown; you know what I'm saying? You hear all the rappers, 90 percent of their music is me." While this may sound more than a bit egotistical, it's hard to say he's wrong. Brown not only directly helped create the genres of soul, funk, and modern R&B, he indirectly influenced an even wider range of artists, encouraging musicians to follow the rhythm and the groove rather than simply adhering to typical musical conventions and structure. Brown's music was sampled by innumerable hip-hop producers and DJs throughout the 1980s and 1990s, helping establish rap as a viable musical form. Even techno is indebted to James Brown.