Also known as the Godfather of Soul, James Brown was an iconic singer, songwriter and dancer who found his calling in funk and R&B music.
Brown was born into poverty in Barnwell County in 1933 and raised in Augusta. He kept a home in Beech Island.
Brown's stardom began in the late 1950s, when he recorded “Please, Please, Please” and “Try Me” as a member of an R&B vocal group called the Famous Flames. “Try Me” reached No. 1 on the R&B charts and made it into the Hot 100 Singles Chart.
The early 1960s saw Brown break into the charts with “Lost Someone,” “Night Train” and “Prisoner of Love,” which reached No. 2 on the pop charts.
He also produced hit singles “Papa's Got a Brand New Bag,” “I Got You” and “It's a Man's Man's Man's World” in that decade.
And his live concert album from the Apollo Theater in Harlem, “Live at the Apollo,” peaked at No. 2 on the pop albums chart.
Brown continued to enjoy success into the 1970s, producing hit singles “Sex Machine” and “Get Up Offa That Thing.”
Much of his reputation stems from his prowess as a live performer. Brown hardly took nights off from performing, earning the title of “Hardest Working Man in Show Business.”
The influential performer was also known for his social activism.
Growing up poor and spending time in a juvenile detention center for robbery as a teen helped him develop sympathy for the less-fortunate.
Brown advocated for the importance of education and appropriated most of his estate in his will toward a foundation to provide scholarships for needy children in Aiken County and Augusta.
Considered the inventor of funk and the grandfather of hip-hop, Brown was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, its first year of existence.
Things started to go downhill for Brown in the late 1980s. In September of 1988, Brown refused to pull over to police who were tipped he had been carrying a gun and acting dangerously. Brown led police on a high-speed chase from Augusta to North Augusta, with the chase ending only after police shot out his tires.
He was sentenced to six years in prison, but spent just 15 months in jail before being released on parole in 1991.
Brown died on Christmas Day 2006 in an Atlanta hospital after a weeklong battle with severe pneumonia.
Avery Wilks is an intern at the Aiken Standard. He is a senior at the University of South Carolina.
Want to go to the premiere?
WHAT? “Get On Up” screening, after-party
WHEN? Screening is Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Regal Augusta Exchange; after-party will be held at the Augusta Museum of History
TICKETS? Tickets to the screening are $50 at www.showclix.com/event/GetonUpAugusta12. For tickets to the after party, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 845-402-2200, ext. 105.
James Brown born in Barnwell, kept mansion in Aiken County
Photo courtesy of getonupmovie.com A young James Brown. The biopic "Get On Up" will have an advance screening in Augusta on Thursday, and will open nationally Aug. 1.×
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