When anyone mentions "The Godfather of Soul" or "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business", there is no doubt who they are referring to. One of the most influential artists of 20th century, James Brown has definitely worked to earn these titles of high esteem. By going from shining shoes to becoming a major entertainer and groundbreaking musician, James Brown achieved the American dream.
Growing up in poverty in Georgia, Brown scraped for money from various odd jobs. He was inspired to become a performer, and formed his band, the Flames, in 1956 with his reform school friend Bobby Bird. This group was the start of a highly successful career packed with R&B and funk hits. Their very first single, "Please Please Me," sold over a million copies.
With his complex yet catchy rhythmic songs, the music of James Brown was unprecedented. Not only was he at the forefront of soul and funk music, he also performed explosive live shows at every venue on his ambitious touring schedule. He believed in giving the audience more than what they came for, and they got a tuxedo-clad band playing spot-on funk music with Brown convulsively dancing at the front. An overwhelming number of musicians cite Brown as a huge influence on their music, and he even holds the record of being the most sampled artist for the song "Funky Drummer."
Brown ambitiously founded Fair Deal, a production company, to promote his music when his label refused to expand their marketing efforts. He also spent his own money to release Live at the Apollo, the album that boosted James Brown and the Famous Flames to national stardom. Brown died abruptly on Christmas Day in 2006, but his legacy lives on in all the musicians he influenced and the fans that cherish his music.