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Last Updated: Friday, 10 December, 2004, 15:00 GMT
Soul godfather's funk legacy
James Brown
Brown's live performances have brought him critical acclaim
James Brown, who has announced he has prostate cancer, is considered a living legend by music fans around the world.

Known as the godfather of soul and the "hardest working man in show business", his influence on American music cannot be overstated.

Born into poverty in South Carolina in 1933, James Joe Brown Junior's story is a classic rags-to-riches tale with plenty of drama along the way.

By the age of seven, he was boarding at a brothel in Augusta, Georgia, paying the rent by tap-dancing on the street and polishing shoes.

Making a name

At the age of 16 he was sent to prison after being convicted of theft but was given parole after singer Bobby Byrd helped to secure his release.

His musical career began in earnest when he and Byrd formed a gospel group with an emphasis on R'n'B.

They took on the name of The Flames in the mid-50s, were signed by the King/Federal company and scored a big hit with Please, Please, Please in 1956.

James Brown
Brown is known for his punishing work schedule
The track sold a million copies and made Brown a star although several of his singles over the next two years flopped.

Songs like Try Me in 1958, I'll Go Crazy and Think, both released in 1960, got Brown back on track, placing him back in the R'n'B hit parade.

His live performances were already gaining a reputation - he worked up to 350 nights a year, with his frenetic, high energy performances becoming his trademark.

By the early 60s, he was playing sold-out gigs at the famous Apollo Theatre in Harlem.

Mainstream hit

And it was his album, Live at the Apollo in 1963, that really established him as an artist - it is still one of the most critically-acclaimed live albums ever recorded.

Singles such as Night Train and I Don't Mind followed, with 1963's Prisoner of Love giving him his first top 20 pop single.

James Brown
Brown continues to tour at the age of 71

He then left King Records and signed up with Smash Records.

The 60s cemented Brown's reputation as he developed a tighter sound with hits like I Got You (I Feel Good), Papa's Got a Brand New Bag and It's A Man's Man's Man's World.

Cold Sweat and Get Up (I Feel Like Being a Sex Machine) broke new ground as Brown developed his funk sound.

His success as an artist brought him incredible wealth and Brown embraced the American dream, buying radio stations, fast food restaurants and a private jet.

The 70s saw more hits including Papa Don't Take No Mess but his work became less popular as disco took hold.

Personally, he was having a bad time, too. His son Teddy died in a car accident and he was plagued by tax problems.

Mixed fortunes

He had more hits in the 80s with Living in America, How Do You Stop?, and I'm Real and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but his personal problems continued.

He spent two and half years in jail after an incident with a shotgun followed by a high-speed car chase in 1988.

The 1990s did not improve - he received a two-and-a-half year jail term for assault in 1998 but was granted a state pardon in 2003 by the state of South Carolina.

Earlier this year he was charged with domestic abuse after a row with his fourth wife Tomi Rae Hynie but the allegation was resolved when he failed to contest the charge.

Despite such problems threatening to overshadow his long career, Brown's musical legacy stands firm and he continues to tour into his 70s.

James Brown has prostate cancer
10 Dec 04 |  Entertainment
Brown receives state pardon
21 May 03 |  Entertainment
New twist in soul star's marriage
19 Apr 04 |  Entertainment
City shelves James Brown festival
01 Feb 04 |  Entertainment
Soul star Brown in assault arrest
29 Jan 04 |  Entertainment


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