James Brown Photography

James Brown

Not only is James Brown the undisputed “Godfather of Soul,” and the man who put funk on the map—he’s also widely recognized as the grandfather of hip-hop. Throughout much the 1950s and ’60s, this singer/songwriter/dancing machine performed no less than five nights a week, rightfully earning him the title “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business.”

Besides bringing old-fashioned fun with cape-wearing heyday hits “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and “I Got You (I Feel Good),” Brown was also at the forefront of social and political commentary, making headlines for his message in the music with “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine” and “Say It Loud—I’m Black and I’m Proud.”

His six-decade-spanning career enjoyed a rebirth in the ’80s as “Living in America” became a Rocky IV centerpiece, followed by a 1986 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. The world may have lost “Soul Brother No. 1” at a spry 73 in 2006, but his influence is still evident from Sly & the Family Stone through Michael Jackson, Prince, and Bruno Mars.

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