Get up offa that thing, James Brown is here!
With his calendar packed with year-round concerts, Brown at 72 is still going strong with his much celebrated rhythm and blues. A prolific hitmaker, Brown has had 114 Billboard R&B singles, 94 of which made the Hot 100 singles chart. Seventeen made it to number one; only Stevie Wonder and Louis Jordan have broken his record.
Born James Joe Brown, Jr. on May 3, 1933 in Barnwell, South Carolina, the young Brown grew up poor during the Great Depression. He would often dance for pennies at the local National Guard hall and later did menial labor like picking cotton and shining shoes.
When his parents split up when he was four, he stayed with his father, who sold tree tar before moving to Augusta, Georgia for a better job. Now under the care of two aunts, Brown soon met an older kid in the neighborhood who taught him how to play the piano.
He loved music, but at around age 15, he joined a gang. At 16, he was jailed for stealing and vandalizing cars. However, it was during his three years in prison that he met Johnny Terry and Bobby Byrd, who later became part of the legendary group “The Flames.” After being released from jail, the group formed and toured all over Georgia.
In 1955, they recorded “Please, Please, Please,” a piece of explosively emotional black music, and King Records quickly signed the group. It was Brown’s first career-defining song, and it reached number five on the Billboard R&B chart in 1959.
Three years later he performed at the Apollo Theater in New York City, and a star was born. The album “Live at the Apollo” captured the energy and hysteria generated by his performance, becoming a classic.
Into the swinging 1960s, his musical fame and career soared, directly influencing music through the decades, from funk and disco in the 1970s to Afro-pop, rock and rap in the 1980s. He became an international icon for his musical revolution and over-the-top showmanship on stage. His furious dynamic dancing became a trademark; he shakes, spins, drops, jumps and sweats like no other as screaming fans dance along.
Despite his glorious and prolific musical accomplishments, Brown’s personal life has been rife with controversies splashed across tabloid covers. He was charged with domestic violence against Tomi Rae, his on-and-off fourth wife who is only half Brown’s age; he was jailed for three and a half years after a 1988 police car chase and received a two-year suspended sentence in 1998 on a firearms charge. In 2004, Brown was diagnosed with prostate cancer but survived.
But to James Brown fans around the world, his music and his cool outweigh his negatives. A charter member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since 1986 and the recipient of the lifetime achievement Grammy Award in 1992, Brown is very much alive and kicking, releasing new albums non-stop.
At the Korea concert, Brown is to perform old hits such as “I Feel Good,” “Sex Machine” and “Living in America” as well as recent songs from the album “The Next Step,” which was released in August, 2002.
by Ines Cho
The concert starts at 8 p.m. on Friday in Jamsil Stadium in southern Seoul. Tickets are 55,000 won ($57), 77,000 won and 99,000 won, and are available through www.interpark.com, the ARS service 1544-1555, or major ticket booths in Seoul. For more information, call (02) 3141-3488 or visit the Web site, www.allaccess.co.kr.