DAR Legends: James Brown

Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal 
-There are many artists in the world who truly impact the culture in a way that can't be duplicated. Truth be told, James Brown is really one of those artists. He's been a legend since his arrival and even after his heyday, his impact and importance to the culture and music has always been prevalent and showcased. The South Carolina born artist is a special brand of musician that could capture your attention with just the simple sound of his voice and keep you engaged with his footwork and dancing. However, the story of James Brown goes back to South Carolina, takes a stop in Augusta, GA, and would eventually end up in Hollywood under the biggest and brightest lights.

At the beginning of his career, James was bright eyed and focused on making the most of himself musically. After a small road of talent shows followed by some tumultuous moments that landed him in jail, James decided to turn his life around and joined a gospel group to assist with that. After befriending Bobby Byrd, James would begin to work with him, joining his band, that would later be named The Famous Flames. The Famous Flames would soon be named James Brown and The Famous Flames, as James was the standout star. However, while those humble beginnings for James would set the tone for his future, it would be his solo career and run that solidified his status as a legend. He always kept a band and the Famous Flames were always in tow, but eventually the band would go from being known as their own entity to the James Brown band more often, showcasing that he was the leader and the focal point. In the 60's, James took off and became the star he was destined to be, with the biggest moment of his career thus far coming from a recorded performance at the Apollo. It would prove to provide a big reward for him, as his success through the late 50's and the early 60's saw him ascend to a higher stratosphere within the music industry. He was earning money, earning clout, and even started up his own record label with the rewards of his success.

When I think of James Brown, my first thought usually goes to his Mr. Dynamite run during the mid 1960s. He would release a plethora of hits like "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag", "I Got You", and "It's A Man's Man's Man's World", all of which are iconic in the legacy of James Brown. His style as an artist was hard to really put into a box. Sure, he had R&B sensibility in his music, and he's the greatest artist to utilize funk in his music, and he is the Godfather of Soul, but he was even more than that. He was the pioneer for the future, combining his funky rhythms in the music with his agility in dancing and moving. He was one of the greatest to ever grace the stage, and today, our job is to talk about his history, his influence, and what he represents.

"Soul Brother No. 1,", "The Godfather of Soul," "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business," "Mr. Dynamite", these are just some of the titles given to none other than James Brown. By age 20, he was the lead singer of the R&B group the Famous Flames and over the course of two decades, he would become known as Mr. Dynamite and Soul Brother No. 1. By the 70’s, James Brown was known as the Godfather of Soul and is credited for creating the genre of funk music.

Someone who has had over 5 decades in the music industry and such a rich career year after year, it becomes almost impossible to summarize and do him justice, especially someone as groundbreaking as Brown. I decided to focus on one of the most critical periods in music and one that catapulted him to being not only the best artist, but the best performer. Let’s look at 1970-75 (albeit quickly) since this seemed to be the most troublesome time in the artist’s life. His political views cost him a portion of his African-American fanbase and ran his tours everywhere but the United States. His band members had left. He had recruited a few others and began recording under a new label and THAT is what created the “funk” James Brown became known for.

It was during this period that Brown released track after track and album after album and charted almost every time. His albums “Sex Machine”, “Get On The Good Foot”, “The Payback” and “Hell” became fan favorites. And of course, 1970 was the year that his hit “Funky Drummer” was released! Any hip hop fan knows, that is the most heavily sampled, looped, and remixed song of all time. It was his music that influenced so many DJ's and so many beats that are now staples in hip hop. His album releases took Brown (almost) everywhere, but the most significant place during this period would be Kinshasa, just before Muhammad Ali and George Foreman’s “Rumble In The Jungle”. It’s at this point that artists like Miles Davis would consider James Brown as a heavy influencer of their style. By 1975, Brown had become involved in TV and kept top chart spots for the remainder of the year.

By the end of ’75, James Brown started experiencing the decline that happens to so many artists, but the titles remained and he would forever be recognized as a legend and the creator of a vital subgenre. Personally for me, I discovered James Brown in my late teens, when every one of my favorite rappers were sampling his songs and my favorite comedians were incorporating him into their skits. Even years after his heyday, his style was being referenced in the fashion industry. It was the funk music that I loved and my appreciation for him was solidified.

There aren’t many who can start a music career at the age of 20 and become the creator of a whole entire genre, remain relevant for over 40 years and leave an imprint so profound that it would transcend so many generations. Despite the many personal problems James Brown faced, he will forever be regarded as a legend, an influencer and such a vital part of music as a whole.

Outro By @TrueGodImmortal 
-My purpose in this outro is just to talk about my favorite James Brown moments and music. His influence is felt in hip hop, funk, and soul today still. During the golden era of hip hop, there was no other artist that exemplified what hip hop represented quite like James Brown. The sounds, the horns, everything he recorded from the 60's through the 70's has been rendered iconic by the lingering legacy of every song. How could one forget the iconic tracks like "The Payback", "I Got You (I Feel Good)", "Say It Loud (I'm Black And Proud)", "Please, Please, Please", "It's A Man's Man's Man's World", and so many more? The raspy voice singer laid the foundation for a whole generation and despite his flaws, he was one of a kind.

You see the influence from James honestly in every entertainer of yesterday and today, from the legendary Michael Jackson who idolized him, to Prince, to Usher, and even some elements in the current pop stars. If you're moving, dancing, singing, or making funk or soul music, you are a direct descendant of James Brown, and that's the truth. His albums are plentiful and to be honest, he mastered the art of making the most hilarious Christmas songs ever. My favorite James Brown Christmas song is "Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto", and my favorite James Brown song in general is "It's A Man's Man's Man's World". I think the latter is his best vocal showing and the former is literally one of the funniest songs I've ever heard in regards to the Christmas holiday. That was another thing about James Brown: his music, his personality, and entire style was serious, but there was a comedic element to just about everything he did. He was a larger than life artist, and would be immortalized through Lifetime Achievement Awards, being inducted into multiple Hall of Fames, a Hollywood Star, and is widely recognized as the greatest artist of the rock and roll era.

His final legacy, when it's all said and done, is as one of the greatest entertainers ever in the history of music and pop culture. From his dancing, his pioneering ways, his impact, and more, James Brown was the definition of the word legend and then some. It's impossible to walk through every decade of his career and do it justice, but James Brown impacted every decade of music in his own way, and there aren't too many artists in the history of music that could do the same. James Brown is hands down a legend.



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