James Brown, the undeniable "Godfather of Soul," told friends from his hospital bed that he was looking forward to performing on New Year's Eve, even though he was ill with pneumonia. His heart gave out a few hours later, on Christmas morning. The pompadoured dynamo whose classic singles include "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" and "I Got You (I Feel Good)" died Monday of heart failure, said his agent, Frank Copsidas of Intrigue Music. He was 73.
"People already know his history, but I would like for them to know he was a man who preached love from the stage," said friend Charles Bobbit, who was with Brown at the hospital. "His thing was 'I never saw a person that I didn't love.' He was a true humanitarian who loved his country."
The entertainer with the rough-edged voice and flashy footwork also had diabetes and prostate cancer that was in remission, Bobbit said. Brown initially seemed fine at the hospital, Copsidas said. Three days before his death, he had participated in his annual toy giveaway in Augusta, and he was looking forward to his New Year's Eve show.
"Last night, he said 'I'm going to be there. I'm the hardest working man in show business,'" Copsidas said Monday. He said Brown planned to perform during a two-week tour in Canada after hitting Times Square.
Brown was himself to the end, at one point saying, "I'm going away tonight," Bobbit said at a news conference later Monday. "I didn't want to believe him," he said.
A short time later, Brown sighed quietly three times, closed his eyes and died, Bobbit said.
One of the major musical influences of the past 50 years, Brown was to rhythm and dance music what Bob Dylan was to lyrics. From Mick Jagger to Michael Jackson, David Bowie to Public Enemy, his rapid-footed dancing, hard-charging beats and heartfelt yet often unintelligible vocals changed the musical landscape.
He was one of the first artists inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, along with Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and other founding fathers.
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