James Brown died early Monday at Atlanta’s Emory Crawford Long Hospital of congestive heart failure, his agent said. He was 73.

Brown was in Atlanta for a dental appointment when he fell ill and was admitted to the hospital over the weekend for treatment of “severe pneumonia,” said his agent, Frank Copsidas.

James Brown (born May 3, 1933, Barnwell, South Carolina — some sources list his year of birth as 1928 and his birthplace as Pulaski, Tennessee) is one of the most important figures in twentieth-century music and a prime influence in the evolution of gospel and rhythm and blues into soul and funk. As a singer, dancer and bandleader, he has influenced popular musicians since the 1960s. He has been cited as an influence by musicians in many genres, including rock, soul, jazz, R&B, and hip-hop. Among other things, his quick ascent to icon status in the musical community can be attributed to his rejection of industry stereotypes. Also, Soul Brother Number One was a symbol of self-motivation and achievement in spite of racism for Black Americans.

James Brown’s musical innovations, developed in tandem with the many skilled musicians who passed through his bands (the Flames, the James Brown Band, the JB’s), used the basic building blocks of earlier African-American music; his career is a case study in change and self-determination. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, his irresistible sound spawned countless imitators. By the mid- ’70s, several of his key band members (Bootsy Collins, Fred Wesley, and Maceo Parker), had left his employ and joined forces with George Clinton, whose so-called P-Funk groups (Funkadelic, Parliament, Parlet, the Brides of Funkenstein) were a looser, wilder and more self-consciously counterculture version of Brown’s bands. With the advent of hip hop in the late ’70s, James Brown’s grooves became the foundation for rap music and breakdancing, as DJs such as Grandmaster Flash looped and extended the drum breaks from earlier JB favorites like ‘Give It Up Or Turn It A Loose.’ In the late 1980s, James Brown’s music experienced a renaissance with the rise of sampling by Hip Hop producers. Snippets of his 800-some songs were recycled into hundreds of rap songs and continue to appear in electronic music to this day.

James Brown
James Brown

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