James Joseph Brown Jr. (who later removed the Jr. designation from his name) was born in South Carolina during the Depression. He helped support his family by picking cotton and shining shoes. He was convicted of armed robbery at the age of 15 and sent to prison. Under the condition that he leave Augusta Georgia and get a job, the family of musician Bobby Byrd helped him get an early release.
James Brown was inspired by Little Richard and Ray Charles. When Little Richard left music in the fifties to become a minister, James Brown honored his concert dates and even hired some of Little Richard’s backup band. Bootsy Collins played in his band. He influenced musicians from Sly and the Family Stone to Booker T. and the MGs to the Jackson Five, not to mention all of the music written and performed by him which has been sampled for use in hip hop, R&B and pop. This year he helped give Christmas gifts to the needy. He was quoted as saying that he was going away the night he died.