James Brown

James Brown
He has often been called the "Godfather of Soul", and through the course of a career that spanned nearly half a century his influence has been seen in many younger musicians. Where would funk music be if it were not for James Brown? Would we even have funk music at all, without his pioneering work?

I suppose we would, but it probably would not be so widespread and the genre would be a little bit more boring. The name James Brown is nearly synonymous with funk music but unlike some artists, James's path brought him to numerous other places before he got started in the music business. Born in 1933 in South Carolina and raised in Augusta, Georgia, he was an interesting fellow all around: he lived in a whorehouse as a child, served a stint in prison for armed robbery at the age of sixteen, and his ancestry was a curious mixture of African American, Asian, and Apache.

Brown's time in the pen was hardly wasted, however. His musical inclinations had been evident from a young age, and he was already a talented entertainer. It was here at the juvenile detention center in Taccoa, Georgia that James met Bobby Byrd, who would become his close friend and a frequent collaborator o­n musical projects.

After his release James Brown tried his hand at a few other endeavors, including boxing and a brief period as a baseball pitcher. After an injury, he found in music a career that would applaud his unique talents and suit him well for the rest of his life. He got his start right alongside the Byrd family, joining Sarah Byrd's group The Gospel Starlighters in 1955. He eventually joined Bobby's group The Avons, which changed its name to the Famous Flames and scored a number of hits in the late 50s.

The 1960s saw much more from James Brown, with hits like "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" and "I Got You (I Feel Good)" doing well o­n the charts and paving the way for the rest of his career.