James Brown May 3, 1933 – December 25, 2006
James Brown was born in Barnwell, South Carolina on Wedsday May 3, 1933 he died December 25, 2006. He was an American recording artist and musician. He was known as the God Father of Soul music. That title carried him through into the 20th century as an Icon for all. He was an activist always for the right of equality. To be born black does not mean it stops you from being successful. He was an idealist and believed that if you want to be a successful in anything you have to own your craft and know it and work hard to master it and no one can touch you but to immolate what you as an artist has created. And he has proven that in his career as an entertainer that spanned six decades.
James Brown profoundly influenced the development of many different musical genres. Began his career as a gospel singer in Toccoa, Georgia. Joining a vocal group called the Avons that later evolved to become The Famous Flames, in the group he was the lead singer. Success blossomed for him with the group ballads “Please, Please, Please” and “Try Me”, he built a reputation as a tireless live performer. More success followed in the 1960s with the live album, Live at the Apollo.
He became more vocal on the main social activism which was in preserving the need for education among youths, influenced by his own troubled childhood and his forced dropping out of the seventh grade for wearing “insufficient clothes”. Due to heavy dropout rates in the 1960s, He released the pro-education song, “Don’t Be a Drop-Out”. Royalties of the song were donated to charity used for dropout prevention programs. The success of this led to him to a meeting with President Lyndon B. Johnson at the White House. President Lyndon B. Johnson cited him for being a positive role model to the youth. Throughout the remainder of his life, Brown made public speeches in schools and continued to advocate the importance of education in school.
During the late 1960s, Brown moved from a continuum of blues and gospel-based forms and styles to a profoundly “Africanized” approach to music-making that influenced the development of funk music. By the early 1970s, Brown had fully established the funk sound after the formation of The J.B.’s with records such as “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine” and “The Payback”. Brown also became notable for songs of social commentary including the 1968 hit, “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud”
By 1962, He scored a hit with his band with their cover of the instrumental, “Night Train”, becoming not only a top five R&B single but also Brown’s first top 40 entry on the Billboard Hot 100. That same year, the ballads, “Lost Someone” and “Baby You’re Right”, the latter a Joe Tex composition, added to his repertoire and increased his reputation with R&B audiences. On October 24, 1962, Brown financed a live recording of a performance at the Apollo and convinced Syd Nathan to release the album, despite Nathan’s beliefs that no one bought live albums due to the fact that Brown’s singles were already bought and that live albums were usually bad sellers. Live at the Apollo was released the following June and became an immediate hit, eventually reaching number two on the Top LPs chart and selling over a million copies, staying on the charts for 14 months. In 1963, Brown scored his first top 20 pop hit with his rendition of the standard, “Prisoner of Love”. He also launched his first label, Try Me Records, which included recordings by the likes of Tammy Montgomery, Johnny & Bill (Famous Flames associates Johnny Terry and Bill Hollings) and the Poets, which was another name used for Brown’s backing band.
In 1964, seeking bigger commercial success, Brown and Bobby Byrd formed the production company, Fair Deal, linking the operation to the Mercury imprint, Smash Records; King Records however fought against this and was granted an injunction preventing Brown from releasing any recordings for the label. Prior to the injunction, Brown had released three vocal singles, including the blues-oriented hit, “Out of Sight” which further indicated the direction his music was going to take Touring throughout the year, He and the Famous Flames grabbed more national attention after giving a high-octane performance on the live concert film, The T.A.M.I. Show. The Flames’ polished choreography and timing as well as Brown’s energetic dance moves and high-octane vocals upstaged the show from proposed closing act, The Rolling Stones. With a new deal with King, Brown released his composition, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” which became his first top ten pop hit and won him his first Grammy Award. Later in 1965, James Brown released “I Got You”, which became his second single in a row to reach number-one on the R&B chart and top ten on the pop chart. He followed that up with the ballad, “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” which confirmed his stance as a top-ranking performer, especially with R&B audiences from that point. He continued to receive many awards and also continued to write produce and execute on stage live performances which his fans loved until he became ill in December 2006 and died.
James Brown recorded seventeen number-one singles on the Billboard R&B charts, and also holds the record as the artist to have charted the most singles on the Billboard Hot 100. James Brown was honored by many institutions including inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame. In the Joel Whitburn’s analysis of the Billboard R&B charts from 1942 to 2010, Hot R&B Songs, James Brown is ranked as number one in The Top 500 Artists. He is also ranked seventh on the Rolling Stone music magazine list of its 100 greatest artists of all time
Marriages and the Estate
James Brown was married three times. He married his first wife, Velma Warren, in 1953. Over a decade later, the couple had separated, with their divorce finalized by 1969. Despite this, Brown and Warren maintained a close friendship that lasted until Brown’s death.
Brown married his second wife, Deidre “Deedee” Jenkins, on October 22, 1970. The couple was separated by 1979 and their divorce was finalized less than a year later on January 10, 1981.
His third and final marriage was to Adrienne Lois Rodriguez (March 9, 1950 – January 6, 1996). Brown married her in 1984. After a contentious marriage that made headlines due to domestic abuse complaints, Rodriguez died in January 1996.
Less than a year after her death, He hired Tomi Rae Hynie to be a background singer for his band. He and Hynie began dating shortly afterwards. On December 23, 2002, He and Hynie held a wedding ceremony that was conducted by Rev. Larry Flyer. Following his death, controversy surrounded the circumstances of the marriage, with his attorney, Albert “Buddy” Dallas, reporting that the marriage wasn’t valid because Hynie was married to Javed Ahmed, a Bangladeshi whom Hynie claimed married her for a Green Card in an immigration fraud. Though Hynie contended the marriage was annulled, the annulment didn’t occur until April 2004. In an attempt to prove her marriage to Brown was valid, Hynie produced a 2001 marriage certificate as proof of her marriage to Brown, but she did not provide the court with court records pointing to an annulment of her marriage to him or to Ahmed. According to Dallas, James Brown was angry and hurt that Hynie had concealed her prior marriage from him and that James moved to file for annulment from Hynie. Dallas added that though Hynie’s marriage to Ahmed was annulled after she married James Brown, The marriage was not valid under South Carolina law because they did not remarry after the annulment.
James Brown had numerous children and acknowledged nine of them including five sons – Teddy (1954–1973), Terry, Larry, Daryl and James Joseph Brown II and four daughters – Lisa, Dr. Yamma Noyola Brown Lumar, Deanna Brown Thomas and Venisha Brown. He also had eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. James Brown’s eldest son, Teddy, died in a car crash on June 14, 1973.
James Brown signed his last will and testament on August 1, 2000, before Strom Thurmond, Jr., an attorney for Brown’s estate. The irrevocable trust, separate and apart from Brown’s will, was created on James Brown’s behalf in 2000 by his attorney, Albert “Buddy” Dallas, who was named as one of three personal representatives of the estate. His will covered the disposition of his personal assets, such as clothing, cars and jewelry, while Brown’s irrevocable trust covered the disposition of music rights, business assets of James Brown Enterprises and James Brown’s Beech Island estate in South Carolina. Upon filing his will in 2002, Brown advised that most of the money in his estate go into creating the I Feel Good, Inc. Trust to benefit disadvantaged children and provide scholarships for his grandchildren. His final single, “Killing Is Out, School Is In”, advocated against murders of young children in the streets. Brown often gave out money and other items to children while traveling to his childhood hometown of Augusta. A week before his death, while looking gravely ill, Brown gave out toys and turkeys to kids at an Atlanta orphanage, something he had done several times over the years.
During the reading of the will on January 11, 2007, Thurmond revealed that Brown’s six adult living children (Terry Brown, Larry Brown, Daryl Brown, Yamma Brown Lumar, Deanna Brown Thomas and Venisha Brown) were named in the will. Out of the the will was Hynie and James II which were not mentioned at all as parties who could inherit anything. James Brown will was signed ten months before James II was born and more than a year before the marriage to Tomi Rae Hynie. Like James Brown’s will, his irrevocable trust also did not mention Hynie and James II as recipients of Brown’s property. The irrevocable trust was established before, and had not been amended since.
Brown continued to perform and record for the duration of his life until his death in 2006 from congestive heart failure and pneumonia. After Brown’s death, Brown’s relatives and friends, a host of celebrities and thousands of fans attended public memorial services at the Apollo Theater in New York on December 28, 2006 and at the James Brown Arena on December 30, 2006 in Augusta, Georgia.
A separate, private memorial service was also held in North Augusta, South Carolina on December 29, 2006, which was attended by James Brown’s family and close friends. Seventy-six days after his death, the Godfather of Soul was finally laid to rest on Beech Island, South Carolina. He was buried in a crypt at the home of his daughter, Deanna Brown Thomas. The Rev. Al Sharpton presided over the burial: among those present were His six adult children, his partner Tomi Rae Hynie, and their five-year-old son. According to Reverend Sharpton, the burial was paid for by the adult children since disputes over the estate were still being debated in the courts. There is a possibility that the body will be moved later to a public mausoleum and memorial garden, depending on the outcome of that dispute, as arrangements were made by trustees for James Brown body to be laid to rest in a public garden in Augusta, Georgia.