The Godfather of Soul is gone.
James Brown, the world renowned musical celebrity who never forgot his hometown of Augusta, died unexpectedly Christmas morning in an Atlanta hospital. He was 73.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete and are being handled by C.A. Reid Sr. Memorial Funeral Home in Augusta.
Mr. Brown is survived by at least four children - two daughters; a son, Daryl; and a 5-year-old son, James Brown III, said his agent Frank Copsidas, of Intrigue Music.
Mr. Brown was hospitalized with pneumonia at Emory Crawford Long Hospital on Saturday, The Associated Press reported, and died at about 1:45 a.m. Monday, Mr. Copsidas said.
He died from heart failure brought on by pneumonia, his agent said.
Longtime friend Charles Bobbit was by his side.
"People already know his history, but I would like for them to know he was a man who preached love from the stage," Mr. Bobbit said. "His thing was, 'I never saw a person that I didn't love.' He was a true humanitarian who loved his country."
Mr. Copsidas told The Associated Press that doctors do not know what caused the pneumonia, only that Mr. Brown's illness was discovered by his dentist during a recent appointment in Atlanta. Mr. Brown had diabetes, and he also had prostate cancer that was in remission, Mr. Bobbit said.
Mr. Brown initially seemed to be fine when he was in the hospital and had even told people that he planned to be back on stage for the New Year's Eve performance, Mr. Copsidas said.
Mr. Bobbit said Mr. Brown grew progressively worse as time passed.
"He had a cold and cough for some time, but he started coughing bad in the last few days," Mr. Bobbit said.
He added, "The doctor we spoke to that was treating him said we could not do the first couple of shows but that there was a possibility if he got much better and could handle it we could be at B.B. King's for the New Year's Eve show," Mr. Bobbit said.
Mr. Brown's last public appearance was Friday at Augusta's Imperial Theatre, where he passed out gifts to children in his 15th annual toy giveaway.
"I get more out of this than opening my own presents," Mayor Copenhaver told The Chronicle. "I mean how can you not get something out of putting a smile on the face of children at Christmas?"
It was at the toy drive that Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver last spoke with Mr. Brown.
"I was completely shocked," Mr. Copenhaver said about hearing the news Monday that Mr. Brown had died.
After he speaks with Mr. Brown's family, Mr. Copenhaver said, he would plan something appropriate to commemorate the area's most famous celebrity.
"I was doing an interview this morning with the BBC, who was running a retrospective of his life," Mr. Copenhaver said. "That's how big he was around the world."
Augustan Lowell Dorn, a former sound engineer on many of Mr. Brown's songs in the 1970s, recalled Mr. Brown's generous spirit.
"He had two sides," Mr. Dorn said. "There was the side of the international superstar he showed the public, and there was his private side. That was the side that showed just how much he cared about people and others who were less fortunate."
Mr. Brown was known worldwide as a music visionary who brought soul music to mainstream audiences, developed the propulsive, riff-oriented music that became known as funk and drew up the political and musical blueprint for the hip-hop revolution.
Known universally by his nickname, "The Godfather of Soul," Mr. Brown said that his music was originally influenced by the gospel and jazz he heard as a young man.
"I was a gospel singer," he once said in an interview with The Chronicle. "All day Sunday we would sing gospel music, and then in the evening we would go to jazz. I knew that I wanted music that was comfortable, easy to listen to while being commercial and up to date."
The result was a form that blended the syncopated rhythms from jazz with the soulful delivery of gospel. Combined with Mr. Brown's unique delivery and magnetic stage presence, the music influenced musicians from the Rolling Stones to Michael Jackson.
While recording, Mr. Dorn said, Mr. Brown would often just start jamming with his band and then let the lyrics come to him.
"We were mesmerized by what he could do off the cuff," Mr. Dorn said. "He was truly a genius of his music genre."
Although born in Barnwell County, S.C., and a resident of Beech Island, Mr. Brown was known in recent years as a warm and generous presence in Augusta, the city in which he grew up.
"If there's one thing James Brown always made sure of, whether it was in his songs or in his statements, everybody knew he was from Augusta, Ga.," said former Augusta Mayor Charles DeVaney, who fondly remembers Mr. Brown's inserting the city's name into his song Living in America.
The city returned the favor with a number of honors, including renaming its civic center the James Brown Arena in August and adding the name James Brown Boulevard to Ninth Street a decade ago.
Honoring Mr. Brown in the community is what drove city coliseum authority member J.R. Riles to help lead the charge for renaming the street and the civic center after him.
He said the money taken in from the scheduled James Brown Birthday Bash could be used to help continue Mr. Brown's practice of giving food and gifts to the people of Augusta.
"Funds from that bash could probably keep the toy and turkey giveaway going, but it's going to take the whole community to do this," Mr. Riles said.
A life-size statue of the performer was erected last year on Broad Street facing the Augusta Common, which was the site in May of the James Brown Soul of America Music Festival, an event at which Mr. Brown performed.
In 2003, he went to Washington, D.C., where he was recognized at the Kennedy Center Honors, recognizing outstanding contribution to the fabric of American culture.
As celebrated as Mr. Brown's life would become, it was not without frequent problems with the law.
By the eighth grade in 1949, he had served 3 years in reform school for breaking into cars.
In September 1988, Mr. Brown, high on drugs and carrying a shotgun, entered an insurance seminar next to his Augusta office. Police said he asked seminar participants whether they were using his private restroom.
Police chased Mr. Brown for a half-hour from Augusta into South Carolina and back to Georgia. The chase ended when police shot out the tires of his truck.
He received a six-year prison sentence and spent 15 months in a South Carolina prison and 10 months in a work release program before being paroled in February 1991.
In 2003, the South Carolina parole board granted him a pardon for his crimes in that state.
More recently, he married his fourth wife, Tomi Rae Hynie, one of his backup singers. The couple had a son, James Jr.
In January 2004, Mr. Brown again made news when he was arrested and jailed overnight after a fight with his wife.
The incident was soon forgotten, and the couple and their son frequently appeared together at a variety of public functions.
"He was dramatic to the end - dying on Christmas Day," the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a friend of Brown's since 1955, told The Associated Press. "Almost a dramatic, poetic moment. He'll be all over the news all over the world today. He would have it no other way."
Staff Writers Adam Folk and Amy Swann contributed to this article, and Associated Press reports were used.
- The Rev. Al Sharpton will conduct a radio show dedicated to James Brown from Augusta from 1 to 4 p.m. today. The broadcast can be heard on WFXA (103.1), WTHB-AM (1150) and WTHB-FM (100.9), and WAKB (96.9).
- The Soul Bar owner and DJ Coco Rubio will play an hour-long segment of James Brown music during a special Disco Hell on Friday.
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