James Brown Biography

Review The Artist (3)

Source: http://www.godfatherofsoul.com/man/biography.html
James Brown-photo

James Brown passed away December 25, 2006. Our best wishes, thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Brown's family, friends and loved ones. We feel extremely blessed to have had the opportunity to work with such a loving man, extraordinary musician, cultural icon and world class entertainer. James Brown was and will always be a true legend in every sense of the word. He will be missed by millions but his influence on music, culture and the countless number of lives he touched will carry on for decades to come.

Mr. James Brown's dynamic showmanship remains timeless. His style has been celebrated throughout generations. As one of the most sampled artists to date, he has more honors attached to his name than any other performer in music history.

Mr. Brown is a three-figure hitmaker with 114 total entries on Billboard's R&B singles charts and 94 that made the Hot 100 singles chart. Seventeen of these hits reached number one, a feat topped only by Stevie Wonder and Louis Jordan. Mr. Brown is still putting that "Good Foot" forward with new recordings and protoges such as Derrick Monk, Laurice Monica and Roosevelt Johnson.

Mr. Brown's life history contains many triumphs over adversity.

He was born in South Carolina during the Great Depression. As a child, he picked cotton, danced for spare change and shined shoes. At 16, he landed in reform school for three years where he met Bobby Byrd, leader of a gospel group and life-long friend. Mr. Brown tried semi-pro boxing and baseball, but a leg injury put him on the path to pursue music as a career.

James Brown joined his friend Bobby Byrd in a group that sang gospel in and around Toccoa, Georgia. After seeing Hank Ballard and Fats Domino in a blues revue, Byrd and Brown were lured into the realm of secular music. Naming their band the Flames, they formed a tightly knit ensemble of singers, dancers and multi-instrumentalists.

Over the years, while maintaining a grueling touring schedule, James Brown amassed 800 songs in his repertoire.

Mr. Brown became an icon of the music industry. With his signature one-three beat, James Brown directly influenced the evolutionary beat of soul music in the Sixties, funk music in the Seventies and rap music in the Eighties.

Mr. Brown instilled the essence of R&B with recordings under the King and Federal labels throughout the Sixties. With albums such as "Live at the Apollo", Mr. Brown captured the energy and hysteria generated by his live performances. People who had never seen him in person could hear and feel the excitement of him screaming and hollering until his back was soaking wet. Convinced that such an album would not sell, King Records refused to produce the album.

Mr. Brown put up his own money and recorded the performance at the Apollo Theater in 1962.

Released nearly a year later, "Live At The Apollo" went to Number Two on Billboard's album chart, an unprecedented feat for a live R&B album. Radio stations played it with a frequency formerly reserved for singles, and attendance at Mr. Brown's concerts mushroomed.

As the leader of the James Brown Revue (The J.B.'s), James Brown sweated off up to seven pounds a night through captivating performances. His furious regimen of spins, drops, and shtick such as feigning a heart attack thrilled crowds. The ritual donning of capes and skintight rhythm & blues became part of his personal trademark as a performer.

Mr. Brown's transformation of gospel fervor into the taut, explosive intensity of rhythm & blues, combined with precision choreography and dynamic showmanship, defined the direction of black music from the release of his first R&B hit ("Please Please Please") in 1956. In 1965, Brown scored his first Top 10 pop single with "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag," and the hits kept coming one after another for the next decade.

The gospel and blues structure of his early records gave way to rhythmic vocals and a complex funk sound. His innovations during this period had a profound influence on popular music styles around the world, including funk, rock, Afro-pop, disco and eventually rap.

James Brown's status as "The Godfather of Soul" remains undiminished. He continues to influence new generations of fans who often hear his funk grooves as samples on rap recordings. A charter member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Mr. Brown added to his collection of accolades when he received a lifetime achievement Grammy Award in 1992.

James, Brown (2006). James Brown - Biography. Retrieved February
7, 2007, from Godfather of Soul Web site: http://www.godfatherofsoul.com/

Thanks to Aaron E. for submitting the biography.

Please click here to submit the latest James Brown biography

Hola ! | Reviewer: Anonymous | 11/4/2007

Hi , I'm from Acapulco Mex. I Love his music , I think he was a nice man , his soul , his music , he's cool , James Brown 4ever

Concert Review: James Brown - Bimbo's - San Francisco - January 15, 2006 | Reviewer: b1-66er | 2/7/2006

James Brown was to play at Bimbo's on the 15th. My favorite venue in CA, it's an old art deco, red plushy booth place seating about 500. That the Godfather of Soul would play a venue of this size is a true fluke, caused by only-God-knows-what. To compensate for size, tickets were jacked up to US$135. Normally I wouldn't fork over even a third that much for a show -it'd be Kutrate city, for sure- but to see one of my favorite recorded artists in a venue that worthy, I bit the bullet ...

I was hoping for moments of brilliance at best, but was fearfully prepared for outright disaster. His last few Canadian shows that preceeded this one received favorable reviews, so maybe just maybe there'd be a chance for something remotely resembling quality.

I wanted to get there about an hour before the doors, but in a series of somewhat lazy circumstances I arrived just as people were being let in the venue. Security was a tad more surly than usual (they checked my hiptop and shook my cargo pants down for a bulge that was nothing more than ear plugs). The very-scarce (and super-great) seats had all been marked "reserved." Things being what they were, it seemed best to just wait dead center of the mic, one person deep from the stage.

The wait passed quickly and the Soul Generals (Mr. Dynamite's backing band) came on only a few minutes late. After some awkward fixing of some sound problems, they played the obligatory warm-up and then Danny Ray (Butane James's pitch man of 45 years) came out, like he always does, for the announcement. This is the fifth time I'd seen James Brown and have seen the introductions be excrutiatingly long so it surprised me, when in the matter of just a couple of minutes, BOOM the Godfather of Soul is standing not four feet in front of me.

Donned in red sequins, with a lighter body weight than I've *ever* seen him, he quickly pushed the band into Soul Food, with an instant smoking sax solo from Jeff Watkins. It looked like it could drop into a night of James instructing people to the front, where he essentially was a glorified band leader, but it didn't turn out to be anything like that at all. For the next two hours he pounded out a set, very much from the front where he was constantly either singing/dancing or playing the korg, that felt almost as if it had been hand-selected by me ...

The playlist was made entirely on the fly, without any pre-thought, including:

* A shortened, but well paced version of Please, Please, Please

* The best version of Papa's Got a Brand New Bag I've ever heard him do live or recorded live (easily better than his version on Live at the Apollo which is just too damn fast)

* A very acceptable version of I've Got You (known incorrectly to J.B. heathens as I Feel Good)

* An experiment where the Brown tune Soul Power blended into a cover of Sam and Dave's Soul Man. The attempt stumbled a bit on the bridge, but came back strong on the end thanks to Mr. Brown's co-singer.

It was a show that was stronger than I'd even hoped for -- I mean, come on, Brown is 72 now -- and the performance really only bit it on a weak version of Living in America which was sped through much too quickly. Of the 13 pieces in the band, 11 of them were definitely on, the 12th (a soprano sax) heated up when facing off against Brown's smokin' hot guitarist. Only the Soul Generals leader (yes, that same old blond whitey) didn't really catch on, he seemed pretty put off by the early sound problems (or maybe he just didn't have his Metamucil). Hugely and amazingly, there were *no* medleys (God, how I hate them). And with the exception of L.I.A., there were no speed throughs.

The band was tight and on top of it. I was close enough that I could easily could see and hear Brown's count-off's and commands, with the Soul Generals, literally, just improvising under command as they went along. Every band member was straining-and-waiting for their counts and cues. Songs would often end with a bridge of something like The Chase or The Search and then wrap into another song on a vocal call- out by James. Very often the songs were coded, "do it like your mama says," was a phrase Brown repeated more than once that meant something like "play this refrain three times."

The high points for me were his instrumental Hold It, a scorching cover of Ray Charles's I've Got a Woman featuring only Brown on the Korg accented by a few soulful riffs from his now blue-hot guitarist. And, as if it couldn't go any higher, unbelievably, he did my second favorite instrumental he ever put on record, a cover of Johnny Otis's Every Beat of My Heart. I nearly stroked out and actually, purely unintentionally, screamed "OH MAN!" so loud that it got picked up by the house sound system. If he'd played Go On Now (and the way the night was going, it felt very much like he could have) I'm certain I would have died.

Not once, but twice in the show he flung the mic stand out, straight at me, so quickly and sharply that I ducked it only to see James snatch it back by the cord -- the second time, he pointed and laughed at me. The show ended with a sparkin' version of Sex Machine. All things considered (and there's a frickin' lot to consider here) the best thing for me was being able to see Brown dance -- actually watch his footwork. Every other time I've seen him I've either been too far away, or too low to the ground. Dance-wise the Fly, the Frug, the Robot and the Swim were all there -- the only thing I didn't see him do was the Mashed Potatoes.

From a physical standpoint the obvious way he's lacking is that so unable to do the splits, even in the form of something like a flying scissor kick, that he just reminds you how much he's missing when he tries. He definitely needs to work something else out as a substitute for that move.

He also was missing in the high-end of his gutshot screaming, something I would have liked to experienced again. It seemed to me as though he still had that potential, he just needed a little voice rest.

So let's do the unthinkable and compare this to both the Apollo recordings -- something that's not fully fair because I've never seen video associated with those shows (it may not exist) -- but I've heard both the recordings a million times and know the sets and formats forward and backward. Brown had to have been more energetic at the first Apollo show than he was here at Bimbo's, if for no other reason than he was in his 20's. But he didn't speed through the sets here like he did at the first Apollo show. Now it's true he whipped the crowd into more of a frenzy on that recording, but as far as frenzied crowds go I'll take young and black (Apollo) over old and white (Bimbo's) any day -- and I certainly can't blame Brown for his audience composition. His backing band is better on both I & II than they are here (only because he had the very best backing band ever assembled on those records). His control of the tempo of the show, and the fact it was spontaneous (both the Apollo shows were played from pre-defined playlists), were better at Bimbo's.

This show edges Apollo II, mostly because Brown was experimenting with ballading back then, and for damn sure, I didn't hear any Sinatra tunes at Bimbo's (thank God). So, as impossible as it is to believe, 40+ years later, and taking everything into account, he wasn't that far off his Apollo I mark, and above the II mark.

That this is even possible is baffling. Compared to the other four shows that I've seen, this was easily the best paced, although the raw fire of the band as a whole was probably higher when I saw him at the Maritime Hall a decade ago.

Was this show a freak? Just a good alignment of a lot of things? Certainly at least a little. Brown was very clearly impressed (and not acting) over the quality of his sax and guitar player. They were clearly "on," in a very unusual way. The small venue may well have helped -- possibly firing older club memories in the soul Triceratops, or at the very least having the band benefit by all being within an arm's reach. Brown's signals were clear and easy-to-read.

The crowd where I was standing was into it -- but front row crowds almost always are -- it's hard for me to say what the feeling was like deeper in the venue. Was it worth $135? Of course not. No concert is worth $135 (assuming you don't get to see Britney Spears with her providing a "happy ending" at the close). But when you compare all the shows I've ever seen to this one, and consider what James Brown has meant to me in my life (remember, I'm the guy with the signed Live at the Apollo poster on my dresser), it's hard to say it was a cheat. The icing on the cake? At one point, I think it was during Papa's Got a Brand New Bag, James Brown came over and started shaking hands with the audience -- eight or so people -- and I was one of 'em.

Can a performance like this be repeated? Logic and theory tells you "sure," but I'm not so certain. Other shows on this tour were definitely more of Brown leading than actually performing and that would have lessend the impact considerably. Both the Chicago House of Blues show and his show in Washington DC were vastly different than what I saw -- Brown was far more hands-off there. It feels like I just got real real lucky.

If you've read all the way through, and you've decided to go to a show, whatever you do, get absolutely as close to the stage as you can. Being "there" makes all the difference and would heighten even what would otherwise be a ho-hum show.

(this review from http://b1-66ersworld.blogspot.com/
(c) 2006 polterzeitgeist productions)

Quality | Reviewer: Emily | 11/5/2005

James Brown is an amazing quality talented man. At only 16 it may seem odd me being sucha huge fan, but nothing can deny this man of his pure genius in the music industry. He has done so much for soul music, his performances are great, him performing at glasto was pure great! nothing more can be said. Hes amazing


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