Musician, Singer, and Philanthropist
James Brown, the “Godfather of Soul,” is one of America’s most famous musicians. He was a huge influence on the development of the musical style known as “funk” and was known for his flamboyant performances and energetic dance moves.
Four of his albums appear on Rolling Stone Magazine′s 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Not bad for someone who dropped out of school in the 6th grade and even spent time in jail when he was convicted for stealing at the age of 16. Brown grew up dirt poor in South Carolina and Georgia. His mom left home when he was just a kid.
But he always loved to sing. He even formed a gospel quartet with his cellmates during his time in jail! He joined an R&B band soon after his release from jail, and four years later he was headlining the band and they had a hit in the Top 40 of the Billboard 100. Brown continued to work with the band and develop his own sound, which became known as “funk.” He wrote and performed an abundance of hit songs, and toured with an enormous band, dancing his way through his hits in fancy outfits and elaborate hairdos.
Brown made plenty of money through his music, and he also used his fame to bring attention to racism and the plight of black Americans in the 1960s. His song “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud” became a theme song for the civil rights movement. His favorite cause was children – especially keeping kids in school since he never had the chance to finish school himself. He even wrote a song about it – “Don’t Be a Dropout” – and donated royalties from the song to dropout prevention programs. He also gave out toys and turkeys to orphanages several times over the years, and when he died he left most of his money to his trust (the “I Feel Good, Inc. Trust”) to help disadvantaged children and provide scholarships for his many grandchildren to go to school.