Happy Birthday to James Brown, “The Godfather of Soul”


By: Ashley Tillery 

I got the feelin’ that the Godfather of Soul is enjoying his birthday in the Heavens today! Born on May 3, 1933, James Brown would have been celebrating his 84th birthday here on Earth.

Soul singer, soulful dancer and creator of funk music, Brown was born in South Carolina and raised in Augusta, Georgia. Entertaining was always his natural passion. As a child, he entertained troops from Camp Gordon at the start of World War II by playing the piano, guitar and harmonica. Brown’s inspiration for singing came after he heard “Caldonia” by Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five.

In 1953, Brown joined R&B/Soul singer Bobby Byrd’s acappella group, the Gospel Starlighters, and the Avons, an R&B group.

In 1957, the group was renamed “James Brown and The Famous Flames.”

The group released their hit “Try Me,” which became the first of 17 chart-topping R&B hits and made it as the number one record on the R&B chart in the beginning of 1959.

In 1964, Brown released his song “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and won his first Grammy Award for the number one hit. After releasing his ballad “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World”, he officially became a top-ranking performer. In 1967, Brown’s sound was defined as “funk” music. His hit “Cold Sweat” was stamped as the first true funk tune on the airwaves.

Brown influenced many fans and entertainers because of his dedication and passion for music and rhythmic dancing. The King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson, was a true fan of the Godfather of Soul saying, “I think James Brown is a genius you know when he’s with the Famous Flames, unbelievable. I used to watch him on television and I used to get angry at the camera-man because whenever he would really start to dance they would be on a close-up so I couldn’t see his feet. I’d shout ‘Show him! Show him!’ so I could watch and learn.”

Like many artists, Brown was taken away from us way too soon. On Christmas Day in 2006, Brown died from congestive heart failure and pneumonia, at the age of 73.

Brown was an innovator, creator and soulful individual that taught us the true meaning of soul and how music is a medicine that heals us from the travesty and disappointments in the world. He taught us that we, as African Americans, should be “Black and Proud” and not be afraid to say it loud!

Happy Birthday Godfather of Soul and Soul Brother No.1, your music lives on forever!

We will say it loud, “I’m Black and I’m Proud!”