James Brown: More than the 'Godfather of Soul'

ATLANTA (AP) ? James Brown, the dynamic, pompadoured “Godfather of Soul,” whose rasping vocals and revolutionary rhythms made him a founder of rap, funk and disco as well, died Monday. He was 73.

Brown was hospitalized Sunday at Emory Crawford Long Hospital with pneumonia and died around 1:45 a.m. Monday, said Frank Copsidas of Intrigue Music. Longtime friend Charles Bobbit was by his side, Copsidas said.

Along with Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and a handful of others, he was one of
the major musical influences of the past 50 years. At least one generation
idolized him, and sometimes openly copied him. His rapid-footed dancing
inspired Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson among others. Songs such as David Bowie’s “Fame,” Prince’s “Kiss,” George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog” and Sly and the Family Stone’s “Sing a Simple Song” were clearly based on Brown’s rhythms and vocal style.

If Brown’s claim to the invention of soul can be challenged by fans of Ray
Charles and Sam Cooke, then his rights to the genres of rap, disco and funk
are beyond question. He was to rhythm and dance music what Dylan was to
lyrics: the unchallenged popular innovator.

“James presented obviously the best grooves,” rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy once told The Associated Press. “To this day, there has been no one near as funky. No one’s coming even close.”

His hit singles include such classics as “Out of Sight,” “(Get Up I Feel
Like Being a) Sex Machine,” “I Got You (I Feel Good)” and “Say It Out Loud –
I’m Black and I’m Proud,” a landmark 1968 statement of racial pride.

“I clearly remember we were calling ourselves colored, and after the song,
we were calling ourselves black,” said in a 2003 Associated Press interview.
“The song showed even people to that day that lyrics and music and a song
can change society.”

He won a Grammy award 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 Presley, Chuck Berry and other founding fathers.

He triumphed despite an often unhappy personal life. Brown, who lived in
Beech Island near the Georgia line, spent more than two years in a South
Carolina prison for aggravated assault and failing to stop for a police
officer. After his release on in 1991, Brown said he wanted to “try to
straighten out” rock music.

From the 1950s, when Brown had his first R&B hit, “Please, Please, Please” in 1956, through the mid-1970s, Brown went on a frenzy of cross-country tours, concerts and new songs. He earned the nickname “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business.”

With his tight pants, shimmering feet, eye makeup and outrageous hair, Brown set the stage for younger stars such as Michael Jackson and Prince.

In 1986, he was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And rap stars of recent years overwhelmingly have borrowed his lyrics with a digital
technique called sampling.

Brown’s work has been replayed by the Fat Boys, Ice-T, Public Enemy and a host of other rappers. “The music out there is only as good as my last
record,” Brown joked in a 1989 interview with Rolling Stone magazine.

“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,” he told the AP in 2003.

Born in poverty in Barnwell, S.C., in 1933, he was abandoned as a 4-year-old to the care of relatives and friends and grew up on the streets of Augusta, Ga., in an “ill-repute area,” as he once called it. There he learned to wheel and deal.

“I wanted to be somebody,” Brown said.

By the eighth grade i

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