James Brown: Life in Music

Celebrating the Godfather of Soul.

James Brown: Life in Music - (Photo: Universal Pictures)

1 / 16

James Brown: Life in Music - (Photo: Universal Pictures)

James Brown: Life in Music - James Brown was, without question, one of the most influential music artists of the last half century. He was an innovator of soul music and the master pioneer of funk. His body of work (both as a dancer and producer) helped birth hip hop music and dance. And his influence as an entertainer spans the world from Fela Kuti to Bob Marley to Michael Jackson to Justin Timberlake. And soon, his life will be explored in the new biopic Get On Up on August 1. Here's a look at the career highlights of Soul Brother Number 1.   (Photo: Universal Pictures)

2 / 16

James Brown: Life in Music - James Brown was, without question, one of the most influential music artists of the last half century. He was an innovator of soul music and the master pioneer of funk. His body of work (both as a dancer and producer) helped birth hip hop music and dance. And his influence as an entertainer spans the world from Fela Kuti to Bob Marley to Michael Jackson to Justin Timberlake. And soon, his life will be explored in the new biopic Get On Up on August 1. Here's a look at the career highlights of Soul Brother Number 1.  (Photo: Universal Pictures)

Live at the Apollo - After scoring several hit singles with the Famous Flames, including "Please, Please, Please" (1956), "Try Me" (1958) and "Night Train" (1962), James Brown bankrolls a live recording of his performance at the famous Apollo Theater. Convincing a reluctant Syd Nathan, head of King Records, to back a live LP, James releases his first album Live at the Apollo in 1963. The LP becomes an instant hit.  (Photo: Polydor Records) 

3 / 16

Live at the Apollo - After scoring several hit singles with the Famous Flames, including "Please, Please, Please" (1956), "Try Me" (1958) and "Night Train" (1962), James Brown bankrolls a live recording of his performance at the famous Apollo Theater. Convincing a reluctant Syd Nathan, head of King Records, to back a live LP, James releases his first album Live at the Apollo in 1963. The LP becomes an instant hit. (Photo: Polydor Records) 

A Brand New Bag - James Brown hits Billboard's pop singles charts for the first time in 1965 when he writes and releases his seminal classic "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Armed with an exceptionally tight rhythm, where all the instruments are being played percussively, the song is credited with being the first record to define funk as a sound or recognize it as an emerging genre.   (Photo: Polydor Records)

4 / 16

A Brand New Bag - James Brown hits Billboard's pop singles charts for the first time in 1965 when he writes and releases his seminal classic "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Armed with an exceptionally tight rhythm, where all the instruments are being played percussively, the song is credited with being the first record to define funk as a sound or recognize it as an emerging genre.  (Photo: Polydor Records)

All Aboard.... The Night Train - America witnesses the atomic power of the James Brown show as the "Godfather of Soul" performs in the concert film T.A.M.I. Show on December 29, 1964. While the showcase features successful pop acts like Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and The Beach Boys, James is undeniably the highlight and absolute show-stopper. So much so that when the Rolling Stones perform afterwards, lead singer Mick Jagger attempts an imitation of Brown.  (Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images) 

5 / 16

All Aboard.... The Night Train - America witnesses the atomic power of the James Brown show as the "Godfather of Soul" performs in the concert film T.A.M.I. Show on December 29, 1964. While the showcase features successful pop acts like Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and The Beach Boys, James is undeniably the highlight and absolute show-stopper. So much so that when the Rolling Stones perform afterwards, lead singer Mick Jagger attempts an imitation of Brown.  (Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images) 

ADVERTISEMENT
The Night James Brown Saved Boston - Already respected in Black America for his bold and empowering soul music, James Brown's sway is put to the test the day after Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. Scheduled to perform at the Boston Garden, James works with the city's mayor to air the concert live on TV in an effort to keep Black folks from rioting in response to King's murder. As several cities burn in Black rage, Boston is spared because Bean Town's Black citizens chose to watch (and feel pride due to) the James Brown show. (Photo: Bob Dean/The Boston Globe via Getty Images) 

6 / 16

The Night James Brown Saved Boston - Already respected in Black America for his bold and empowering soul music, James Brown's sway is put to the test the day after Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. Scheduled to perform at the Boston Garden, James works with the city's mayor to air the concert live on TV in an effort to keep Black folks from rioting in response to King's murder. As several cities burn in Black rage, Boston is spared because Bean Town's Black citizens chose to watch (and feel pride due to) the James Brown show. (Photo: Bob Dean/The Boston Globe via Getty Images) 

A Funky President - Of all the cities hit by riots following King's death, Washington, D.C., is the most devastated. In the aftermath of King (and Malcolm X's) death, James Brown is looked upon as a new Black leader as news crews follow him as he walks through D.C. talking to Black residents about their anger and surveying the damage. His social infuence causes Look magazine to put him on their cover in 1969 with a coverline asking: "Is he the most important Black man in America?"  (Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

7 / 16

A Funky President - Of all the cities hit by riots following King's death, Washington, D.C., is the most devastated. In the aftermath of King (and Malcolm X's) death, James Brown is looked upon as a new Black leader as news crews follow him as he walks through D.C. talking to Black residents about their anger and surveying the damage. His social infuence causes Look magazine to put him on their cover in 1969 with a coverline asking: "Is he the most important Black man in America?" (Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Say It Loud - While James Brown's influence grows, he is criticized by militant Black leaders like H. Rap Brown for not taking a firm stance on issues of Black empowerment. In response to his critics, the music legend writes and records the classic anthem "Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud" in the summer of 1968. The hit becomes a rallying cry for the new Black Power movement anchoring within Black America and the song is credited with helping completely shift the term for African-Americans from Negro to Black.   (Photo: Polydor Records)

8 / 16

Say It Loud - While James Brown's influence grows, he is criticized by militant Black leaders like H. Rap Brown for not taking a firm stance on issues of Black empowerment. In response to his critics, the music legend writes and records the classic anthem "Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud" in the summer of 1968. The hit becomes a rallying cry for the new Black Power movement anchoring within Black America and the song is credited with helping completely shift the term for African-Americans from Negro to Black.   (Photo: Polydor Records)

Finding Bootsy and the Pacemakers - After most of his band walk out on him in 1970 because of a dispute over money, James Brown recruits a crew of young musicians called The Pacemakers.  Members include bassist Bootsy Collins and his brother Catfish, both of whom would go on to become prominent members of Parliament-Funkadelic. While a part of James's band, Bootsy and Catfish further tighten the music icon's funk, making it grittier. Going forth, this sound would help give birth to hip hop music.  (Photo: David Redfern/Redferns)

9 / 16

Finding Bootsy and the Pacemakers - After most of his band walk out on him in 1970 because of a dispute over money, James Brown recruits a crew of young musicians called The Pacemakers.  Members include bassist Bootsy Collins and his brother Catfish, both of whom would go on to become prominent members of Parliament-Funkadelic. While a part of James's band, Bootsy and Catfish further tighten the music icon's funk, making it grittier. Going forth, this sound would help give birth to hip hop music.  (Photo: David Redfern/Redferns)

Feelin' Like a Sex Machine - With this new version of his band (now dubbed the J.B.s), James Brown cut the biggest single of this ensemble, "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine" in 1970. Where James's previous songs prominently featured a horn section, this cut centers on the rhythm created by Catfish's guitar, Bootsy's bass and drummer Jabo Starks's infectious beat. While the Pacemakers's time with the J.B.s lasts only a year, the union produces classics, including "Talkin' Loud and Sayin' Nothing'" and "Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved." (Photo: Polydor Records)

10 / 16

Feelin' Like a Sex Machine - With this new version of his band (now dubbed the J.B.s), James Brown cut the biggest single of this ensemble, "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine" in 1970. Where James's previous songs prominently featured a horn section, this cut centers on the rhythm created by Catfish's guitar, Bootsy's bass and drummer Jabo Starks's infectious beat. While the Pacemakers's time with the J.B.s lasts only a year, the union produces classics, including "Talkin' Loud and Sayin' Nothing'" and "Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved." (Photo: Polydor Records)

ADVERTISEMENT
Paying the Cost to Be the Boss - After Isaac Hayes won an Oscar for doing the soundtrack of the groundbreaking blaxploitation film Shaft, James Brown jumped in the movie music making business. In 1973, he was recruited to record the soundtrack for the classic blaxploitation flick Black Caesar. The song "The Boss" would later be sampled by the rap duo Das EFX for their 1992 hit "They Want EFX."  (Photo: Polydor Records)

11 / 16

Paying the Cost to Be the Boss - After Isaac Hayes won an Oscar for doing the soundtrack of the groundbreaking blaxploitation film Shaft, James Brown jumped in the movie music making business. In 1973, he was recruited to record the soundtrack for the classic blaxploitation flick Black Caesar. The song "The Boss" would later be sampled by the rap duo Das EFX for their 1992 hit "They Want EFX." (Photo: Polydor Records)

A Brother's Revival - By the end of the '70s, James Brown's celebrity had faded from public view. He would resurface in the spotlight in 1980 when comedic actor Dan Aykroyd hired the soul music pioneer to appear (and sing) in the classic comedy film The Blues Brothers. Playing Reverend Cleophus James, Brown not only sings his church into a (literal) flying frenzy, but puts his career back in the spotlight.   (Photo: Universal Pictures)

12 / 16

A Brother's Revival - By the end of the '70s, James Brown's celebrity had faded from public view. He would resurface in the spotlight in 1980 when comedic actor Dan Aykroyd hired the soul music pioneer to appear (and sing) in the classic comedy film The Blues Brothers. Playing Reverend Cleophus James, Brown not only sings his church into a (literal) flying frenzy, but puts his career back in the spotlight.  (Photo: Universal Pictures)

A Soul Brother's Return - In 1985, Mr. Brown records the Dan Hartman and Charlie Midnight composition "Living in America," which celebrates the gritty, do-it-yourself spirit of the U.S.A. The song becomes a major top 10 hit (reviving Brown's relevance as a pop music maker) when it lands in the film Rocky IV.  (Photo: MGM Pictures)

13 / 16

A Soul Brother's Return - In 1985, Mr. Brown records the Dan Hartman and Charlie Midnight composition "Living in America," which celebrates the gritty, do-it-yourself spirit of the U.S.A. The song becomes a major top 10 hit (reviving Brown's relevance as a pop music maker) when it lands in the film Rocky IV. (Photo: MGM Pictures)

Hip Hop Rebirth - Although James Brown's music declined in popularity heading into the late '70s, it gained a foothold at parties in Bronx, New York and helped give birth to hip hop music and dance. Having a major impact on hip hop pioneer DJ Afrika Bambaataa, the trailblazing disc jockey gave back to the Godfather by recording the 1984 hit duet "Unity" with him, reintroducing the James Brown sound to Generation Hip Hop.   (Photo: Tommy Boy Records)

14 / 16

Hip Hop Rebirth - Although James Brown's music declined in popularity heading into the late '70s, it gained a foothold at parties in Bronx, New York and helped give birth to hip hop music and dance. Having a major impact on hip hop pioneer DJ Afrika Bambaataa, the trailblazing disc jockey gave back to the Godfather by recording the 1984 hit duet "Unity" with him, reintroducing the James Brown sound to Generation Hip Hop.  (Photo: Tommy Boy Records)

King of Pop Honors the Godfather - At the 2003 BET Awards, an homage to James Brown turned into one of TV's great moments when Michael Jackson walked on stage (unbeknowst to Brown) to drape the famous robe over Soul Brother Number 1's shoulders. Afterward, an elated James Brown struck up the band so Michael (who idolized Brown) could boogie, leaving the audience and TV viewers in disbelief. That evening, MJ was presented with an even bigger honor when he handed Brown the Lifetime Achievement Award.  (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

15 / 16

King of Pop Honors the Godfather - At the 2003 BET Awards, an homage to James Brown turned into one of TV's great moments when Michael Jackson walked on stage (unbeknowst to Brown) to drape the famous robe over Soul Brother Number 1's shoulders. Afterward, an elated James Brown struck up the band so Michael (who idolized Brown) could boogie, leaving the audience and TV viewers in disbelief. That evening, MJ was presented with an even bigger honor when he handed Brown the Lifetime Achievement Award.  (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Get On Up - Eight years after his death, James Brown's life and career will be explored on the silver screen with the much-anticipated biopic Get On Up, starring actor Chadwick Boseman as the Godfather of Soul. The cast includes Octavia Spencer, Jill Scott, Craig Robinson and Dan Akyroyd.  (Photo: Imagine Entertainment)

16 / 16

Get On Up - Eight years after his death, James Brown's life and career will be explored on the silver screen with the much-anticipated biopic Get On Up, starring actor Chadwick Boseman as the Godfather of Soul. The cast includes Octavia Spencer, Jill Scott, Craig Robinson and Dan Akyroyd. (Photo: Imagine Entertainment)