James Brown performs at the HM Tower of London Festival of Music’s inaugural jazz-and-opera festival at HM Tower of London July 4, 2006.
Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images
James Brown performs at the HM Tower of London Festival of Music’s inaugural jazz-and-opera festival at HM Tower of London July 4, 2006.
Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

The biopic Get on Up, about the life of James Brown, will be released in August. On the occasion of his birthday, we are sharing some little-known facts about the Godfather of Soul.

1. James Joseph Brown Jr. was born May 3, 1933. His first name was actually supposed to be Joseph but was accidentally reversed on his birth certificate.

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2. At the age of 6 he was sent to live with his aunt Honey Washington, who ran a brothel and sold moonshine for a living.

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3. James Brown was once a cotton picker, coal scrounger and shoeshine boy. He also danced and sang to attract clients to his aunt’s place of business.

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4. As a young man, he wanted to play professional baseball and be a professional boxer.

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5. In 1992 a news anchor mistakenly reported him dead. The news inspired a song by L.A. Style.

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6. Kanye West and Jay Z’s song “Gotta Have It” featured three James Brown samples: “Don’t Tell a Lie About Me and I Won’t Tell the Truth About You,” “People Get Up and Drive Your Funky Soul” and “My Thang.”

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7. His first No. 1 single on the R&B chart was “Try Me” in 1959.

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8. James Brown had his eyebrows tattooed in 1991.

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9. He first sang gospel while in prison, where he earned the nickname “Music Box.”

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10. James Brown was a lifelong Republican who campaigned for Richard Nixon and made fundraising appearances for the GOP.

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11. His original Famous Flames bandmates were originally in Little Richard’s band.

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12. James Brown did not know how to read sheet music.

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13. He made a cameo appearance in the movie The Blues Brothers.

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14. James Brown was married four times.

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15. He died on Christmas Day in 2006 and was laid to rest in a 24-karat-gold coffin.

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