James Brown Net Worth at Death – How Did He Get Rich?

James Brown Net Worth

James Brown had a net worth of $100 million at the time of his death in 2006. James Brown, the “Godfather of Soul,” was a prolific singer, songwriter and bandleader, as well as one of the most iconic figures in funk and soul music. He earned most of his income from album sales and concerts. 

James Brown worked his way to the top of funk and R&B music, earning the nickname “The Godfather of Soul.” His unique vocal and musical style influenced many artists. Brown was also known for his turbulent personal life and social involvement, which was expressed both in his songwriting (“America is My Home,” “Black and Proud”) and in his advocacy of the benefits of education for school children.

To calculate the net worth of James Brown, subtract all his liabilities from his total assets. Investments, savings, cash deposits, and any equity he has in a house, car, or other similar asset are included in the total assets. All debts, such as personal loans and mortgages, are included in total liabilities.

Here’s the breakdown of his net worth:

Name: James Brown
Net Worth: $100 Million
Monthly Salary: $1 Million
Annual Income: $10 Million
Source of Wealth: Bandleader, Record producer, Singer, Songwriter, Organist, Musician, Rapper, Artist, Dancer, Actor

Early Life

On May 3, 1933, James Joe Brown Jr. was born in a one-room shack in the woods of Barnwell, South Carolina, just a few miles east of the Georgia border. Brown’s parents divorced when he was very young, and at the age of four, he was sent to Augusta, Georgia, to live with his Aunt Honey, a brothel madam. A young Brown grew up in abject poverty during the Great Depression, working whatever odd jobs he could find for pennies. He picked cotton, washed cars, and shined shoes for the soldiers at nearby Fort Gordon.

Brown later recalled his poor upbringing: “I started shining shoes for 3 cents, then 5 cents, and finally 6 cents. I never made it to a dime. I was 9 years old before I bought a pair of underwear from a store; all of my clothes were made from sacks and other such materials. But I knew I had to finish. I was determined to succeed, and my determination was to be somebody.”

Musical Beginnings

Brown dropped out of school at the age of 12 due to “insufficient clothing,” and he began working odd jobs full-time. Brown turned to religion and music to escape the harsh reality of growing up Black in the rural South during the Great Depression. He developed his powerful and uniquely emotive voice while singing in the church choir.

Brown, however, turned to crime as a teenager. He was arrested at the age of 16 for car theft and sentenced to three years in prison. Brown organized and led a prison gospel choir while incarcerated. Brown met Bobby Byrd, an aspiring R&B singer and pianist, in jail, and the two formed a friendship and musical partnership that proved to be one of the most fruitful in music history.

Brown, who had always been a gifted athlete, returned to sports after his release from prison in 1953, focusing on boxing and semiprofessional baseball for the next two years. Then, in 1955, Byrd invited Brown to join The Gospel Starlighters, his R&B vocal group. Brown agreed, and with his commanding talent and showmanship, he quickly dominated the group. They renamed themselves the Famous Flames and relocated to Macon, Georgia, where they performed at local nightclubs.

The Famous Flames recorded a demo tape of “Please, Please, Please” in 1956 and played it for Ralph Bass, a King Records talent scout. Bass was blown away by the song, particularly Brown’s passionate and soulful crooning. He signed the group to a record deal, and “Please, Please, Please” quickly rose to No. 6 on the R&B charts.

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Superstardom

The Flames hit the road right away, touring the Southeast and opening for legends like B.B. King and Ray Charles. However, the band was unable to replicate the success of “Please, Please, Please,” and by the end of 1957, the Flames had returned home.

Needing a creative spark and facing the loss of his record deal, Brown relocated to New York in 1958, where he recorded “Try Me” with a group of musicians he dubbed the Flames. The song peaked at No. 1 on the R&B charts, made it onto the Hot 100 Singles chart, and launched Brown’s music career. Soon after, he had a string of hits, including “Lost Someone,” “Night Train,” and “Prisoner of Love,” his first song to crack the Top 10 on the pop charts, peaking at No. 2.

Brown toured nonstop in addition to writing and recording music. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, he performed five or six nights a week, earning him the moniker “The Hardest-Working Man in Show Business.”

Brown was a flashy showman, incredible dancer, and soulful singer, and his concerts were hypnotic displays of exuberance and passion that enthralled audiences. “When you heard James Brown was coming to town,” his saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis once said, “you stopped what you were doing and started saving your money.”

Brown meticulously learned and performed whatever dances were popular at the time—”the camel walk,” “the mashed potato,” “the popcorn”—and frequently improvised his own after declaring that he was about to “do the James Brown.” Brown, a cunning and ruthless bandleader and businessman, planned his tours to stop in “money towns” on weekends and demanded perfection from his backup singers and musicians.

He was notorious for fining musicians for missing notes and calling out musicians during performances to improvise on the spot. “You had to think quick to keep up,” one of Brown’s musicians said, with considerable understatement.

Brown recorded a live concert album at the Apollo Theater in Harlem on a single night, October 24, 1962. Initially resisted by King Records because it contained no new songs, Live at the Apollo proved Brown’s most commercially successful album to date, peaking at No. 2 on the pop albums chart and solidifying his crossover appeal.

During the mid-1960s, Brown recorded many of his most popular and enduring singles, including “I Got You (I Feel Good),” “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” and “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” is considered the first song of a new genre, funk, an offshoot of soul and a precursor of hip-hop, because of its unique rhythmic quality, achieved by reducing each instrument to an essentially percussive role.

Social Activism

Brown began devoting more and more energy to social causes in the mid-1960s. In 1966, he released “Don’t Be a Dropout,” an eloquent and moving plea to the Black community to prioritize education. Brown, a firm believer in nonviolent protest, once told H. Rap Brown of the Black Panthers, “I’m not going to tell anybody to pick up a gun.”

Brown gave a rare televised live concert in Boston on April 5, 1968, the day after Martin Luther King Jr.‘s assassination, in an attempt to prevent rioting there. His efforts were successful; young Bostonians stayed at home to watch the concert on television, and the city largely avoided violence. After a few months, he wrote and recorded “Say It Loud: I’m Black and I’m Proud,” a protest anthem that has united and inspired generations.

Troubles and Redemption

Brown continued to perform and record hits throughout the 1970s, most notably “Sex Machine” and “Get Up Offa That Thing.” Although his career stalled in the late 1970s due to financial difficulties and the rise of disco, Brown made an inspired comeback in the classic 1980 film The Blues Brothers. His 1985 hit “Living in America,” which was prominently featured in Rocky IV, was his biggest hit in decades.

However, after becoming one of the first musicians inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 (the year it was founded), Brown slowly slid into a quagmire of drug addiction and depression in the late 1980s.

His personal problems reached a climax in 1988, when he entered an insurance seminar high on PCP and armed with a shotgun before leading police on a half-hour high-speed car chase from Augusta, Georgia, into South Carolina. To end the chase, police had to shoot out Brown’s tires. Brown was imprisoned for 15 months after the incident before being released on parole in 1991.

Brown returned to touring after being rehabbed in prison, delivering inspired and energetic concerts, albeit on a much reduced schedule compared to his heyday. He was arrested again in 1998 after he discharged a rifle and led police on another car chase. He was sentenced to a 90-day drug rehabilitation program following the incident.

Personal Life

Brown married four times and had six children during his lifetime. Velma Warren (1953-1969), Deidre Jenkins (1970-1981), Adrienne Rodriguez (1984-1996), and Tomi Rae Hynie (1984-1996) were his wives (2002-2004). Brown was arrested again in 2004 on domestic violence charges against Hynie, despite saying in a statement: “I would never do anything to hurt my wife. I adore her to pieces.”

Death and Legacy

Brown died on December 25, 2006, following a week-long battle with pneumonia. He was 73 years old at the time.

Brown is without a doubt one of the most influential musical innovators of the last half-century. Brown is regarded as the Godfather of Soul, the Inventor of Funk, and the Grandfather of Hip-Hop by artists ranging from Mick Jagger to Michael Jackson to Afrika Bambaataa to Jay-Z.

Brown was well aware of his place in American cultural history, writing in his memoir, “Others may have followed in my wake, but I was the one who turned racist minstrelsy into Black soul—and thus became a cultural force.” And, despite the fact that he wrote and was written about extensively, Brown always maintained that there was only one way to truly understand him: “As I always said, if people wanted to know who James Brown is, all they have to do is listen to my music.”

Further Reading

Related Lists of Celebrities’ Net Worth

Or, browse all celebrities’ net worth.

How To Become Rich Like James Brown?

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