May 3, 1933 - December 25, 2006: Age 73
The Hardest Working Man in Show Business finally finished the job a year ago today. He was a singer, songwriter, and band leader, and record producer who was probably the most important figure in the transformation of traditional R&B and gospel into soul and funk. His style, much imitated, was entirely unique, a crazy blend of shouting, dancing, strutting, self-caricature and underneath it all, incredible rhythms. Brown was also an activist who advocated for African Americans and the poor.
Brown arrived for a dental appointment at December 23 in such poor health that the dentist sent him straight to the doctor without doing any work on him. He had a persistent cough and looked weak and dazed. Brown went to the hospital the next day, and was admitted for observation. He was in the midst of a busy schedule of performances, and cancelled just a few, hoping to be well enough to perform again by New Year's Eve. Instead, his condition just got worse, and around a quarter to 2am Christmas Day he told a friend by his bedside, "I'm going away tonight." Then he took three long, quiet breaths and closed his eyes. Cause of death was congestive heart failure resulting from complications of pneumonia.
Here he is doing his trademark "cape finale", where his MC tries to get him to leave the stage and he keeps coming back for more. This one's hilarious, every time the MC comes out he brings a different "cape"!