Called “the Godfather of Soul,” James Brown developed a trademark stage show featuring a twenty-piece band and backup singers. His signature sound showcased staccato horns, big bass, and as one critic wrote, “an ability to ‘scream’ on key.”
His high-energy performances became the touchstone for other performers of his generation: Brown would grab the microphone stand, slide into a split, pop back up, pirouette, and then alternate pulsating knee landings with flashing footwork until he collapsed in a heap. His singers would drape a cape over him and begin to carry him offstage when—presto! He would throw off the cape and take his performance into an even higher gear.
Brown’s biggest hits included “Night Train,” “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” and “Living in America.” He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.