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James Brown Died On Christmas 13 Years Ago, Let’s Not Forget The Business Legend He Was

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James Brown died on Christmas day 2006. He revolutionized music but he was also a living symbol of Black power. His music and style inspired cultural pride but on a deeper level, the Godfather of Soul was a revolutionary in business. At at time when “colored” performers were merely expected to sing and dance, James Brown was making money moves and doing so in direct defiance to white power structures that thought him less than human. Let’s not forget that when James Brown died so many Christmases ago, a Black business pioneer went to the grave.

In 1956 James Brown and the Famous Flames recorded their first hit single, “Please, Please, Please.” Even so, national fame didn’t come until a full 7 years later, when the band released their “Live at the Apollo” album. The album unquestionably changed the trajectory of Brown’s career and consequently, world history; it was also an album that Brown’s record label wanted no part of. The label saw no value in spending money to record a live album of the band’s old hits. Brown, as a businessman, had a broader vision and decided to fund the project himself — it stayed on the charts for well over a year. That experience captures the essence of Browns defiance, vision and yes, relentless pursuit of self determination: Black Power.

James Brown promoted his own shows, at a time when Black entertainers were simply expected to show up and collect a small check. Over his lifetime he owned and operated a few record labels, including Try Me, Brownstone and People. Brown used those record labels to release his own productions, while using the radio stations he owned or operated to further his reach; Brown owned or operated stations in Augusta, Atlanta, Knoxville and Baltimore. Brown had an easier time checking on his stations and touring because he actually purchased his own Learjet; he is said to be the first Black man to own a private jet in America. Brown purchased the jet back in the 1966, a time when many Black people were still getting adjusted to sitting in the front of the bus.

As you listen to James Brown’s Funky Christmas album, perhaps it should serve as a reminder that self determination is the goal. Whether Christmas, March 1 or mid-September, the pursuit for Black people is the same — power. James Brown exercised power in his sphere, we should all reflect and make plans to do the same, as we start a new year.

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D'Juan Hopewell
I care about Black Power. Period. Currently working on creating jobs and funding new startups on the South Side of Chicago and writing here and there at HopewellThought.com. Follow me @HopewellThought.
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29 COMMENTS

  1. I’m so very proud of Mr. James Brown. He was truly a pioneer , and a self made man. He didn’t give end . He was also a businessman . So hats off to you Mr. Brown. You really did live your best Life
    Amen.

  2. James Brown was a “Bad Man”. There is no entertaining enterprise that can outmatch his salesmanship, promoting and love of his race like James Brown. There are a lot of copy cats….

  3. Thank you for that beautiful writing about James Brown. James has always been my favorite artist. His lyrics were very powerful and moving, not to mention that funky beat that made you move your feet. I appreciate what you’re doing. Great job!

    • Much of this is not expressed about the Soul legend James Brown nevertheless, many Godly blessings to you sir for celebrating Mr. Browns Life n Death hallelujah!!!

  4. Thank you for a great story and remeberance of a great man and performer. JB empathized that black was truly beautiful and instilled hope and pride in the generations that followed.

  5. James Brown was also very harsh with his band members..Many were underpaid or unpaid while he lived in luxury.. A complicated story depending on your perspective

  6. Many Black Men truly worshipped The Godfather of Soul. However, two young men by the names of Michael Jackson and Prince revolutionized James Brown as an idol. They pattern themselves after him both musically and businesswise. He empowered many both socially, musically, and created an image of success.

  7. Thank you didn,t know that about james brown black history has been so well hidden from us to dim our Hope’s and limit our aspirations. I took am a old new entrepreneur I m building a all steel frame home in new orleans
    Also was blessed to buy 6 lake lots in a town of horseshoe been Arkansas. Great to read your article

  8. It is a time we as black folks got to say enough is enough. We got to help one another& stop putting each other down sooooooooooooooo much.

  9. Though I appreciate this historical narrative, let’s not forget that this is the same man that physically abused women, one being Tammi Terrell. If we are going to tell the story, let’s tell it all.

    • I agree that we need to tell the whole story so we can learn from all of the lessons. The fact that he owned his own jet reminded me of Simon Berry who arrived in Tulsa, OK in 1915. According to A Century of African-American Experience Greenwood: Ruins, Resilience and Renaissance (2003):
      “An experienced pilot, partnering with J. L. Northington, a leading building contractor, Berry owned what may have been the first and only black airline service in the nation — a charter service used primarily by wealthy oil barons to visit their leases in surrounding counties. He was Tulsa’s largest employer of blacks with a full maintenance crew operating his bus and airplane garage. Berry sold his franchise to the City of Tulsa in the early 1950s with the condition that they must retain his drivers and mechanics as part of the agreement….”

  10. Mr James Brown truly a Legend RIP thank you for all that you did for our people. Truly a genius and the king of soul blessings forever

  11. In an age where EVERY black male celebrity is under attack, I am happy that this brother’s legacy remains untarnished. He truly WAS the hardest working man in showbusiness. NO ONE can EVER take that away from him!!!!!!!

  12. 26 December 2019

    Thank you for remembering the ” Godfather Of Soul “,
    James Brown! He had also entertained our soldiers over in Vietnam!!

  13. James Brown was a inspiration not only to me but to the world as a young black man growing up he gave me pride about being black I always feel good about myself I was a strong individual but he certainly made me feel even stronger about myself I love his hard work it is a termination miss you and may God watch over you

  14. I met Mr. BROWN at the age of 11 in Beech Island, SC. He was so nice and told me to stay in school, I still have his autograph tucked away.

  15. We enjoyed James Brown music over years, they were all popular with intent , Say it loud I am Blacl and and I an proud.
    Thanks for his history that you have passed on, it’s an inspiration to me and will also be for others.
    God Bless.

  16. This is Black Talk By Lonnie Johnson,to the whole black race it’s time to put the slavery mentality behind us and move forward in this country and build a black and powerful foundation say it loud I am black and proud

  17. I loved James brown and I went to see him every time he came to town mostly the westbury music fair, I learned a lot from him like to love myself and confidence and how to act and not to be offended if someone called me a vulgar name like sob or mfket I’m not that u can’t call me a dr or lawyer and make me that so u can’t call me a nigger or any of those other ugly names and make me that either so I just chill cause u not talking to me that’s not my name, and I taught it to all my children and I hope many other people that read this and follow these examples and avoid argument ,fights, jail, maybe murder which have happened to some people, it’s called cause and affects those names are called to get a negative response from you ( please learn this and b happy )

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