The Godfather of Soul.

Browse Song Catalog: BMI

James Brown

Inductee
Born/Died
Inducted

Although he is the writer of virtually every song he recorded, his immense power as a performer made him better known as a concert superstar, singer and recording artist.

Worldwide, he has been the number one force in the music industry, the biggest cat indeed, the Godfather of Soul, the one and only James Brown. His career as entertainer and songwriter stretches back to another era of music; when soul songs and performances were just beginning to "cross over" from the more traditional rhythm and blues charts to the pop entries.

Two-time Grammy Award winner and inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Brown's initial recordings helped move rhythm and blues music into the mainstream. Interestingly, despite the fact that he is the writer of virtually every song he recorded, Brown is still principally known as a concert performer, singer and recording artist.

As an artist/composer, Brown is regarded as having been an influential factor in the careers of many headline-writer-performers of the day, including Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, Prince, M.C. Hammer and Sting, among many others.

As a singer, Brown's style evolved over the years but never strayed from his roots in gospel and soul music. He achieved a wide international following among fans of many races and cultures. Beginning with his first significant record release of "I'll Go Crazy" in 1960, virtually every James Brown record has been a hit, among them 74 R&B Top 20 entries, including 17 number ones and total sales of more than 50 million records.

At age 20, Brown joined a group known as The Gospel Starlighters. With the presence of Brown a factor, the group made a stylistic switch out of gospel and on to the more broad-based rhythm and blues field. At the same moment, a name change to The Famous Flames was adopted, a monumental career was launched and the name, James Brown and the Famous Flames became a byword of across-the-board success in the record charts.

The launch pad for this music explosion came during a concert performance of the Brown song, "Please, Please, Please," when a Cincinnati-based recording executive, Syd Nathan heard what was going on and immediately summoned the group to a studio, where the Famous Flames' very first recording of the same song, became a bona fide hit.

From that time forward, Brown and company toured relentlessly from the late '50s to the mid-'70s, sometimes performing as many as 350 one-nighters in a single year.

Despite his schedule demands, Brown became an advocate for various causes and associated himself with government figures involved in justice for minorities and the poor. A major figure in black causes, he was actually called upon to help quell the racial rioting of the late '60s in such cities as Detroit and Newark, among others. Brown also found time to visit and perform for American troops in Vietnam.

During the 1980’s, a new generation began to discover James Brown and they found him on screen in such motion pictures as "The Blues Brothers" and "Rocky IV."

Throughout his four decades of music, Brown has continued working in perhaps his strongest territory, that of a songwriter. His production output includes a host of memorable titles, songs that each had, and still have their special niche in pop music history. They include "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag," "Baby You're Right," "Get it Together," "I Don't Want Nobody To Give Me Nothin”, "Say It Loud - I'm Black And I'm Proud," "Sex Machine," "America Is My Home" and "I Got You (I Feel Good)."

Over the years, James Brown has been honored with the Award of Merit from the American Music Awards. During the same season, he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences. Meanwhile, the album James Brown's Greatest Hits, reached the gold record level, giving proof again that after 40 years of performing and writing great songs, James Brown remains the true "Godfather of Soul."

Wrote songs that have a special niche in pop music history including "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag," "Say It Loud - I'm Black And I'm Proud," "Sex Machine," and "I Got You (I Feel Good)." 

Links

Acknowledgements

Discography:

BMI Database (www.bmi.com)

Top Pop Singles:1955-1999.
Whitburn, Joel.
Record Research, Inc. 1999.


Material and Memorabilia:

All material provided is courtesy of the Songwriters Hall of Fame archives.