James Brown was born in Barnwell, South Carolina on May 3, 1933 to Susie Brown and Joseph (“Joe”) Gardner (who changed his surname to Brown after Mattie Brown who raised him). Although Brown was to be named after his father Joseph, his first and middle names were mistakenly reversed on his birth certificate. He therefore became James Joseph Brown, Jr.
Brown’s career spanned decades, and profoundly influenced the development of many different musical genres. Brown moves on a continuum of blues and gospel-based forms and styles to a profoundly Africanised approach to music making. Brown performed in concerts, first making his rounds across the “chitlin’ circuit”, and then across the country and later around the world, along with appearing in shows on television and in movies. Although he contributed much to the music world through his hitmaking, Brown holds the record as the artist who charted the most singles on the Billboard Hot 100 without ever hitting number one on that chart.
James Brown’s performances were famous for their intensity and length. His own stated goal was to “give people more than what they came for — make them tired, ’cause that’s what they came for.”