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Legendary Soul Singer James Brown Dies at Age 73

James Brown, the rythm-and-blues singer known as the "Godfather of Soul," died Monday morning of congestive heart failure after a bout with pneumonia.

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    There was no more distinctive voice in American pop music than James Brown. But he was also a consummate showman, singer and cultural force. He was the "Godfather of Soul."

    James Brown owned the sound, the flair, the in-your-face lyrics: "I'm black and I'm proud," "Papa don't take no mess," "I feel good."


    Ladies and gentlemen, it's star time at the Apollo Theater. Let's bring him on right now, everybody, the hardest-working man in show business, James Brown ladies and gentlemen…


    He was Mr. Dynamite, soul brother number one. He spent 30 years at the top of the charts, as the master of all he surveyed–in blues, funk, soul and all-around good-time party music.

    The Reverend Al Sharpton, activist and former presidential candidate, toured with Brown as a manager in the 1970s.


    James Brown was not just a guy who made a lot of hits. He changed culture for us. He made the common man matter. We've lost more than an artist; we lost a way of life.


    That way of life began in 1933 amid crushing poverty in Barnwell, S.C. Abandoned at age 4, young James was raised by relatives in August, Ga. A brush with the law landed him in reform school as an adolescent, but it opened a door onto his future career.

    A friend's family took the wayward young man into their home, and into a gospel group. But it didn't take long for Brown to cross the line into the secular. His first big hit, now a rhythm-and-blues classic, was recorded in 1956 with the Famous Flames — "Please, Please, Please."


    "Please, please please…"


    For Brown, it was the first of many to come.


    "I feel good…I got you!"

    "Papa got a brand new bag…"

    "Stay on the scene…like a sex machine…"

    "Say it loud! I'm black and I'm proud…"


    Brown was scheduled to perform at B.B. King's club in New York New Year's Eve. Today, outside the club, fans remembered.

  • FAN:

    I'm a product of the 1960s and he was the first person that made Afro-Americans proud of their heritage. He started with "Black and I'm Proud" and from that day on the black community felt a lot better with their ethnicity. So he will be missed.


    Offstage, James Brown commanded his share of lurid headlines. Four marriages, charges of spousal and drug abuse, jail time served on traffic and assault charges after a 1988 police chase — he was paroled in 1991 after 15 months in prison.

    Brown never stopped working hard, keeping up a grueling tour schedule of up to 70 dates a year.

    His influence was wide and profound. Performers decades younger than he mimicked his over-the-top showmanship, and his music echoed through a multitude of musical genres, including R&B, rock and roll, soul, funk, hip-hop, even country.

    Brown, who was one of the first performers inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, won three Grammy awards, including a lifetime achievement honor. At the Kennedy Honors in 2003, the hip-hop artist LL Cool J put it best.

  • LL COOL J:

    In music law there's three B's: There's Bach — I love Bach; there's Beethoven — I love Beethoven; and there's Brown — JAMES BROWN.


    James Brown died this morning in Atlanta of congestive heart failure. He was 73.

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