Brown’s trademark stage presence has not only left an impression on legions of artists who followed in his footsteps, including Michael Jackson & Mick Jagger, his benevolent humanitarian efforts have also impacted society long after his death.
In celebration of “The Hardest Working Man In Show Business” and the release of “Get On Up,” we decided to highlight a few of James Brown’s influential contributions to America’s culture.
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Throughout the mid-1960s Brown devoted a bulk of his time to a number of social issues, including the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War, and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In addition to recording "Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)," the legendary icon also launched the “Operation Black Pride” initiative in 1968 where he reportedly presented 3,000 certificates for free Christmas dinners in impoverished neighborhoods in New York City.
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James Brown’s early involvement with social issues also transcended into Politics. Publicly known as a Republican, Brown endorsed President Richard M. Nixon’s 1972 reelection, and later George W. Bush by appearing at various fundraising events.
Known for his strict recording schedule, Brown’s relentless work ethic resulted in a plethora of timeless music that not only birthed inspiration for future icons, but also shaped pop music. Among his many tracks, the funk visionary’s "Funky Drummer" is considered to be one of the most sampled songs in music history, according to Rolling Stone.
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Despite dropping out of school in the seventh grade, the legendary performer went on to become an advocate for education by penning the 1966 song, "Don't Be a Dropout." On the soulful track, Brown declares: “Without an education, you might as well be dead.”
Similar to his music, James Brown’s style was another one of his many traits that was adored by fans. From his velour jumpsuits to his trademark cape routine, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s fashion also inspired his protégé, Rev. Al Sharpton. During a 2013 episode of MSNBC’S “Politics Nation,” the civil rights activist-turned-on-air-personality explained how The Godfather of Soul influenced his hairstyle.
“He became like the father that I no longer had. He even had me do my hair like his. I did it, because a man has never asked me to do something that really validated me as having worth, and that someone wanted me to be like them. It’s the James Brown’s that inspired me. And there are a lot of James Brown’s out there that may not be stars, but have enough passion to survive in the world and enough compassion to help bring somebody along like me.”