James Brown was one of the most important figures in 20th century popular music and was one of the early creators of R&B,Soul, and Funk music. His musical innovations were also crucial to the creation of Hip Hop, Disco, A wide... [more]
James Brown was one of the most important figures in 20th century popular music and was one of the early creators of R&B,Soul, and Funk music. His musical innovations were also crucial to the creation of Hip Hop, Disco, A wide variety of Electriconic music styles, and a variety of international popular music. James Brown was especially popular in Africa and his musical influence can be heard in Afro-Beat and Ju Ju music.
Brown's musical career started in the mid fifties with the vocal group The Famous Flames. During this time they performed mostly secular gospel music and R&B. He had some minor success on the R&B charts and on the chitlin' circuit but it was not until the self-financed "Live at the Apollo" album in 1963 that Brown became a household name. It was during the next few years that Brown would come to write the cannon of music that would come to define the origins of Big Band funk.
The hallmarks of Brown's style was percussive horn lines that interlocked in complicated patterns. These played against a percolating backbeat rhythm from the drums and much more melodic bass line then in most popular music. Brown's personal vocal style was mixture of gospel singing and a percussive rap-talking that was influenced by the preachers he had heard as a youth, and would come to influence hip hop in the future.
Into the Later 60's and 70's James Brown continued to develop his sound with the help of his most famous backing band The J.B.'s.
The J.B.'s would include future stars like Fred Wesley, Bootsy Collins, and Maceo Parker. This band took Brown's music into a more aggressive direction both sonically and lyrically. The influence of Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis's "Bitches Brew" coupled with the success of Parliment Funkadelic can be heard with the increasing frenetic energy and prominent use of the guitar in Brown's writing. Brown also became increasingly political and songs such as "Funky President (People It's Bad)" in 1974 and most notably "Say It Loud-I'm Black and I'm Proud" from 1968, which became one of the most notable civil rights anthems of the 60's, are examples of this.
Brown's popularity dropped off significantly with the dawn of disco era and the disbandment of the J.B.'s. He continued to tour throughout his life and his music would see a resurgence in the late 80's as his music would become heavily sampled in the early years of hip hop. He remained a constant fixture in the popular culture and in his later years would often play himself in Movies and on Commercials.