Introducing the originator of funk, the godfather of soul, James Brown. Ok so this one is a bit of a stretch for jazz musician of the day, but it’s his birthday today and he was a huge inspiration for a lot of people (dancers and musicians alike).
James Brown got a lot of his inspiration from jazz and R&B performers during his early years including Louis Jordan. As a child he would sing and dance to make some money, taught himself how to play the harmonica, learned the guitar from Tampa Red, and picked up the piano and drums from others. However, Brown did not have the cleanest of pasts. He served a jail sentence being charged with armed robbery when he was only 16. Upon his release, James tried his hand at boxing and baseball.
After a leg injury ended his athletic career, Brown formed the Famous Flames with a childhood friend, Bobby Byrd. Their music was influenced by musicians such as Little Richard, Little Willie John, and Ray Charles. The musical numbers that he produced over the years became classics for R&B, soul, and funk. Less commonly known, James was an entrepreneur evident by his venture into real estate and music publishing. He was an influential social activist and stood for various civil rights movements throughout his life.
His song Cold Sweat is often referred to as the first true funk song.
The Cape Routine.
One of James Brown’s famous performances where he falls to his knees, his MC lays a robe on his shoulders and helps him off the stage, only to come back to perform an encore. Inspired by Gorgeous George, a professional wrestler.
His death on Christmas Day in 2006 was a surprise to everyone. James Brown was always a hard worker, and often performed when he was sick. He was not known for complaining about being ill. He has left an impression on the world not just as a musician, but as a proud hard working black man. So while technically not a jazz musician, who cares, James Brown deserves some continued recognition… may he rest in peace.
Get on the Good Foot ❤