Icon: James Brown
Every James Brown show began with a hypeman introducing the star of the show, rattling off a list of his latest hits and heroic epithets: “Mr. Dynamite! The amazing Mr. ‘Please, Please ‘himself! He’s universally known as Soul Brother Number One!” That may have put the case too mildly. He toured and recorded ceaselessly for half a century; in the decade bookended by 1965′s genre-redefining “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and 1974′s zeitgeist-assessing “Funky President” alone, he had more than 60 hit singles, not counting the ones he wrote and produced for the singers and musicians who traveled with his revue. His invention of funk in the mid ’60s created an entire school of musicians who raced to keep up with the rhythmic innovations of almost every new James Brown record. He’s easily the most-sampled artist ever. Brown’s catalogue is enormous and messy – he was a singles artist and live performer rather than an album guy; he released a lot of lesser experiments alongside his classics; and there are a lot of dubious live albums and compilations floating around. Here’s an introduction to the peaks of his immense catalogue.