He was born in a one-room shack in Barnwell, South Carolina, in 1933. He moved to Augusta, Georgia when he was five. His mother abandoned him, he grew up in abject poverty and he was sent to jail for petty theft at 15. But James Brown overcame it all to become one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century.
Brown recorded his first song, “Please, Please, Please,” in 1956. It sold 3 million copies. His high energy and dramatic stage style influenced a generation of singers, from Mick Jagger to Michael Jackson. The “hardest working man in show business” recorded 50 albums and 100 singles over the course of his extraordinary career. Along with Ray Charles, he pioneered “soul” music: a dynamic blend of gospel, jazz, and rhythm and blues.
Brown wanted to record his 1962 concert at the legendary Apollo Theater, but no record company would back him. He paid to have it recorded and the album sold more than a million copies, staying on the charts for 66 weeks.
The first successful live album in history was recorded on October 24, 1962, Today in Georgia History.