James Brown, the "Godfather of Soul," Dies

James Brown, 1933 - 2006 (Photo courtesy ABCNews.com)
James Brown, 1933 - 2006 (Photo courtesy ABCNews.com)

The "Godfather of Soul" has died.

James Brown died early Christmas morning at Emory Crawford Long hospital in Atlanta. According to his manager Brown's longtime friend Charles Bobbitt was by his side when he died.
Brown fell ill in Atlanta over the weekend. He was admitted to the hospital for the treatment of severe pneumonia. Doctors now say it was heart failure that claimed the life of the legendary singer.

James Brown was 73.

Brown was in Augusta, Georgia on Friday, participating in a toy giveaway. He said then, "If you bring people together, that's everything. You gotta bring people together."

Brown is one of the pioneers of soul music. He was famous for his frenetic dance moves and his piercing vocal style.  The Reverend Jesse Jackson says his friend James Brown "was dramatic to the end" and calls the singer's death Christmas Day an almost "dramatic, poetic moment."

In a statement, President Bush said that Brown "enriched our culture and influenced generations of musicians."

Brown was admitted to a hospital in Atlanta with pneumonia and initially appeared to be doing okay. But a friend quotes him as saying he knew he was "going away," just a short time before he closed his eyes and died of heart failure this morning. Just last week, the 73-year-old entertainer had participated in his annual Christmas toy giveaway in Augusta, Georgia. And his agent says he was looking forward to his New Year's Eve show.

Brown is being remembered as a pioneer in the music industry. He was the Godfather of Soul, Mr. Dynamite, a performer who lit up the stage with his distinctive voice and endless supply of energy.

All James Brown did was change the face of R&B, Soul, and Funk music in the 60s and 70s, leaving behind those signature tunes that continue to influence today's generation of musicians.

Growing up poor in the depression era south, Brown said he shined shoes and danced for spare change. And despite a criminal record dating back to an armed robbery conviction in his teens, Brown managed to become a certified music icon.

Brown had an R&B hit in 1958 with "Try Me." He emerged as the standout talent in the R&B group, The Famous Flames, in the late fifties.

And with the hit album "Live at the Apollo," released in 1963, James Brown shined in the national limelight. A year later, he and The Famous Flames performed together for the last time. Soon after, Brown recorded two of the songs he would be known for the rest of his career.

His hits,"Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" and "I Got You," in which he coined his catch phrase, "I Feel Good!", topped both the R&B and Pop charts in 1965.

Brown's style of rhythm and blues with attitude gradually earned its own genre.

By the 70s, his music was "funk." He led a new group, the James Brown Revue. And the performer was now a bonafide hit machine, with more than 50 top 10 R&B songs under his belt by the mid-70s.

But, in the late 70s, a new musical craze took over the country, and the sixties hitmaker, "Soul Brother Number One," struggled to connect with a disco generation.

Cameo appearances in hit movies of the 80s like "The Blues Brothers" re-introduced Brown and his quirky performance style to younger audiences.  His "Living in America" became a top ten hit in 1985, with both the song and the singer appearing in "Rocky IV".

That success was short-lived. By 1988, Brown once again found himself tangling with the law.

First came allegations of assault on then-wife, Adrianne Brown, and just a year later, after Brown allegedly threatened people with a handgun, he sent police on an interstate car chase,  with police opening fire on Brown's pickup truck.

He was sentenced to six years in prison, and paroled after two-and-a-half.

Brown had several more brushes with the law through the 1990s, arrested multiple times for drug possession and domestic abuse. But that couldn't change what Brown had done for music. The singer received a lifetime achievement grammy award and inductions to both the Rock and Roll and Songwriters halls of fame.

In 2003, Brown was named a Kennedy Center honoree. He continued to work well into his 70s, touring internationally and performing for special events.

James Brown, the self-described "hardest working man in show business," lived up to his name.

Longtime friend Little Richard tells MSNBC that the Godfather of Soul was an "innovator" and "originator."

The Reverend Al Sharpton says Brown made "soul music a world music."

Funeral arrangements aren't finalized, but Brown's agent says Sharpton will preside over services.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.