On May 3rd 1933, a star was born by name of James Joseph Brown Jr. Most will know this man by some of his numerous nicknames: “The Godfather of Soul,” “Mr. Dynamite,” “Soul Brother #1,” “The Minister of the New Super Heavy Funk,” “Sex Machine,” or just plain old James Brown. Regardless of whatever you want to call him, Brown single-handedly revolutionized the music and entertainment industry. But his life was no cake-walk, starting with the exact moment he was born. According to Brown, when he came into the world it looked as if he was a stillborn, but one of his aunts who was at the hospital somehow managed to breathe life into baby Brown, thankfully.
James Brown’s formative years were anything but easy. His mother left him and his father for another man when Brown was just four years old. And so his father, James Sr., had to scrape by on insignificant wages selling pine tar to Barnwell County, South Carolina turpentine factories. At the age of six, Brown was sent to Augusta, Georgia, live with his aunt, Honey Washington. Because his own mother left, Honey Washington played the much needed maternal role in Brown’s life. But the fact that she sold moonshine and ran a brothel made his childhood anything but normal.
Brown started working at a young age to aid in providing for him and his aunt. His list of jobs included a coal-scrounger, a cotton-picker, and a shoeshine boy. On occasion, he sang and danced in front of Aunt Honey’s brothel to attract customers. But the young boy would run into legal trouble at the tender age of 15. He was sentenced 8-to-16 years in prison for stealing parked cars all around Georgia. But due to his upbeat nature and absolute determination to be somebody, he took full advantage of his prison time. He dedicated himself completely to music, singing his first gospel songs and earning yet another nickname “Music Box.” Brown was able to impress the warden and the Georgia State Parole Board with his stern nature and musical focus, and after serving only three years of his sentence he was released from prison. And as soon as he stepped out of that Georgia prison, Brown never stopped climbing the ladder of musical greatness.
In 2006, Brown fell ill much to his discontent. His long-time manager and friend said the he would never complain even if he was sick and still performed regardless of his condition. A few days before Christmas of that same year, Brown was checked into a hospital in Atlanta, Georgia due to a cough he had been developing since November that left him weak and fatigued. On Christmas day, James Brown died of reported congestive heart failure due to pneumonia. Millions of fans mourned the loss of their great soul leader, but we are all glad that he was able to grace this earth with his musical talents and tenacity to live life the way he saw fit.