James Brown had a long-lasting and successful career but met his end in 2006 at 73. However, the events after his demise left a sour taste in the mouth.
James Brown was a man of extraordinary talents. He could sing, dance, produce music, and was a bandleader. His exploits led him to be called various nicknames, including "Godfather of Soul," "Mr. Dynamite," and "Soul Brother No. 1."
Brown's career lasted over 50 years. In that time, he influenced the development of various musical genres. He was recognized for his exploits by being one of the first ten inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 186.
Brown started his career as a gospel singer in Toccoa, Georgia. He rose to national prominence in the mid-1950s when he became the lead singer of the rhythm and blues vocal group, the Famous Flames.
The legendary singer was reputed for being a dynamic live performer thanks to his exploits with his band. In the late 1960s, he moved from blues and gospel sounds and styles to a more Africanized music version.
In the early 1970s, he had established the funk sound with several hit records. He was also noted for songs that commented on social happenings.
At the end of his career, he had released 17 records that peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard R&B charts and held the record for the most singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart that did not get to the pole position.
Although his music exploits and records are indelible, Brown also did terrible things in his lifetime. He reportedly viciously abused and terrorized his wives and girlfriends and allegedly kicked a pregnant girlfriend down the stairs.
There are reports of him holding fellow musicians at gunpoint and cheating them out of money. He also reportedly stranded his bandmates in Rome for nine days.
In 1988, Brown led police on a high-speed chase while being high on PCP after threatening attendees at an event with a shotgun for using his personal bathroom.
In his lifetime, Brown was married four times. His first marriage was to Velma Warren in 1953. He shared a son with her. After a decade of marriage, they separated before finalizing their divorce in 1969. However, they maintained a close relationship until his death.
In 2010, another of his daughters, Pettit, claimed his body had disappeared.
On October 22, 1970, Brown married for the second time to Deidre "Deedee" Jenkins. He shared two daughters with her. They separated in 1979, with the musician's daughter alleging he domestically abused Jenkins. On January 10, 1981, their divorce was finalized.
Brown's third marriage was to Adrienne Lois Rodriguez. The marriage was riddled with domestic abuse complaints and generally contentious.
In 1988, Rodriguez filed for divorce, citing years of cruelty treatment. However, they reconciled. She died in 1996. Brown married for the fourth time to Tomi Rae Hynie, who he hired as the background singer for his band.
The couple held a wedding ceremony in December 2002, but controversy surrounded the circumstances of their union after the musician's passing.
Brown fathered many children in his lifetime. He acknowledged nine of his kids, including five sons – Teddy, Terry, Larry, Daryl, and James Joseph Brown Jr. and four daughters – Lisa, Dr. Yamma Noyola Brown Lumar, Deanna Brown Thomas, and Venisha Brown.
His eldest son, Teddy, died in a car crash in 1973, while Venisha died in 2018. In 2007, DNA tests revealed the iconic singer had fathered at least three extramarital children, including LaRhonda Pettit.
In December 2006, Brown became critically ill. He visited his dentist's office in Atlanta for dental implant work. He arrived late for the appointment. The dentist observed that he looked bad, weak, and dazed and advised him to see a doctor.
Brown visited the Emory Crawford Long Memorial Hospital a day after seeing his dentist for medical evaluation. He was admitted to the hospital for observation and treatment.
His longtime personal manager and friend, Charles Bobbit, revealed he struggled with a noisy cough since returning from a European trip. This was despite the singer never complaining about being sick and even performing while ill.
Brown was forced to cancel his already scheduled concerts in different cities but remained confident he would be discharged from the hospital before his New Year's Eve shows in New Jersey and New York.
However, he remained hospitalized as his condition worsened. On Christmas Day 2006, he died at about 1:45 am. He was 73. The cause of his death was given as congestive heart failure resulting from complications of pneumonia.
Bobbit, who was at his side at the time of his death, said he stuttered and admitted he would die that night before taking three long, quiet breaths, falling asleep, and dying.
Besides the mystery surrounding his death, there have been uncertainties surrounding his body. Since his death, Brown's body has been moved to different locations.
The celebrated singer did not rest in peace nor rest in one piece after leaving the world. His widow, Hynie, revealed that his legs had to be cut off to extract bone marrow to determine the paternity of their son, James II.
She further revealed that his body was relocated 14 times after his death amid family squabbles over his fortune. Legal documents revealed Brown's body was meant to be temporarily placed in a crypt in his daughter Deanna's yard.
However, in 2010, another of his daughters, Pettit, claimed his body had disappeared and suggested it was a ploy to conceal the true circumstances surrounding his death.
However, that allegation was denied by a funeral home director. Deanna also denied Pettit's claim via her publicist. CNN's Thomas Lake investigated the matter and got conflicting information.
One information said the whereabouts of Brown's body was confidential, while another said it was publicly known to be in Deanna's yard. There have also been legal battles over Brown's will and estate and questions over the legality of Hynie's marriage to the singer.
In July 2018, the South Carolina Court of Appeals ruled that her marriage to Brown was valid, meaning she was his surviving spouse and entitled to all rights the status entailed.
However, in 2020, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that Hynie was not legally married to Brown and had no right to his estate. Recent reports suggest the deceased singer's family has reached a settlement and ended the 15-year battle over his estate.