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Black History Month: James Brown 'The Hardest Working Man in Show Business'

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Continuing our observance ofBlack History Month, here's a profile of "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business"

James Brown (1933-2006), AKA “the Godfather of Soul”,and “The Hardest-Working Man in Show Business” is a rarity in this series. Living in Beech Island, S.C., he did not leave the South when fame came to him.

Brown was born in Barnwell, S.C. in 1933. At an early age, he was raised by relatives in Augusta, Ga. One of those relatives, an aunt, ran a brothel. Forced to grow up fast, Brown had several run-ins with the law and went to jail at age 16 for car thefts. Originally sentenced to 8 to 16 years, Brown got out in less than 4 for good behavior.

After he got out of prison, Brown formed his first band and in 1956, released his first single, “Please, Please, Please. “By the mid-to-late 1960s, Brown had amassed a collection of hits like, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,”, “I Feel Good”,"Say It Loud, (I'm Black and I'm Proud)"and many others.

During the Civil Rights era, Brown generally counseled non-violence and won praise from President Lyndon B. Johnson when his words helped head off a race riot. In general, Brown felt that African-Americans needed to take control of their economic destinies.

While Brown was one of the biggest stars in the music world, he was not above getting into trouble from time to time. In 1975, the Internal Revenue Service claimed he owed $4.5 million in taxes from 1969-1970. Also, during this time, his son died, his wife left him and his band quit. With the disco era in full swing, it seemed music was passing Brown by.

But not for long, after appearing as a preacher in the movie, “The Blues Brothers” , Brown cut his first million seller in 13 years with “Living in America” which was the theme from "Rocky IV". Brown wrote and performed the song at the request of Sylvester Stallone, the star of the movie.

In 1988, Brown again found himself on the wrong side of the law after leading police on a two-state car chase. He was sentenced to 6 years in prison in South Carolina for assault, weapons and drug possession and resisting arrest. He was released in 1991.

Brown managed to get his career back on track releasing several albums in the 90s and 2000s. In 2000 he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He married his longtime girlfriend, Tammie Ray Hynie in 2001.

Brown died in Atlanta in December, 2006. The arena in his adopted hometown of Augusta, Ga., is named for him, the James Brown Arena.

Source: notable biographies.com

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