Some were shocked, others were saddened and even those who didn't know his work had a sense that a significant man had died.

James Brown, who passed away on Christmas Day after being admitted to hospital with pneumonia, left a legacy that will continue to influence popular culture for decades to come.

The icon whose music brought joy to millions, crossing continents and cultural divides, remains a positive force in the minds of the UAE public.

Paula Al Chami, 31, an exhibitions organiser from Shaikh Zayed Road, said it was a terrible loss. "I can't believe he's dead. When I think of James Brown, I just think he was a lot of fun and he had a great vibe. I remember being young and seeing my parents having a really good time to James Brown music and it makes me feel nostalgic."

'Loved his moves'

Another fan was Simin, a volunteer worker from Umm Suqueim, who said: "I loved his music and I loved his moves — even at 73 he could still do it. Whatever he did, he put his soul into it."
The 50-year-old added she was impressed that he stayed true to his unique flair.

"He never changed his style but kept going, making it better and better. He's going to be greatly missed but his music will live on."

One of the best

Shop owner Gholamraza Saberi, 48, from Al Qusais, described Brown as "one of the best singers in the world".

"When I was very young, the people from my city Abadan, in Iran, liked him very much. I liked everything about his music and singing because it was from the heart."

Indian-born Naima Katru, a 21-year-old sweet company executive from Jumeirah, said she liked Living in America. "His music was great and I listened to it many times but I don't know much about him."

Not sure

Among those we spoke to who were not familiar with his work was Munjal Choksi, a 27-year-old store manager from Sharjah, who said: "I knew something had happened to someone called James Brown but I haven't read the papers. I might have heard his songs but I'm more of a Guns ‘n' Roses fan."

But for those whose lives have been touched by the soul legend, his death signifies a great loss to the world.


Roy Campbell, a 53-year-old commercial manager in the building industry based in Deira, said he was sad to hear the news.

"I grew up listening to his music," he said. "He was a bit of a rebel but I liked that.

"He was a showman who did his own thing and he didn't follow anyone else's style. A lot of people have tried to follow in his footsteps but have failed miserably."


May 3, 1933: Born in Barnwell, South Carolina and raised in poverty in Augusta, Georgia, 40 miles away.

1953: James Brown joins the Gospel Starlighters, a vocal quartet led by Bobby Byrd, after completing a four-year stint in prison for robbery.

November 1, 1955: The Gospel Starlighters become The Famous Flames and record Please, Please, Please at the studio of WIBB in Macon, Georgia.

October 1, 1958: His first No.1 hit, Try Me, is released.
February 1, 1965: James Brown records Papa's Got a Brand New Bag, a revolutionary single that ushers in a whole new era of soul music. It tops the R&B chart for eight weeks and even cracks the pop Top 10.

January 5, 1974: The Payback, the most successful of James Brown's Seventies albums makes its debut on Billboard's album chart.

December 15, 1988: Sentenced to a six-year prison term on various charges. Paroled on February 27, 1991.

February 25, 1992: Brown receives a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 34th annual Grammy Awards.

February 25, 1993: He is awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the fourth annual Rhythm & Blues Foundation Pioneer Awards.


Name: James Brown.
Date of Birth: May 3, 1933.
Sign: Sun in Taurus, Moon in Leo.
Education: Alto Reform School, Alto, Georgia, US.
Career: James Brown has had 96 Top 100 hits and comes in second place behind Elvis Presley as the musician with the most hit records. He has the highest number of R&B hits of all time with more than 116 charted hit songs during his career.

A man of influence

Artists James Brown inspired include:

Michael Jackson
Mick Jagger

The Arab link

In 2004, Egyptian singer Hakim recorded a duet with James Brown. The song, called Lela, was released on Hakim's latest album El Yomen Dol. Hakim sings his part in Egyptian accompanied by James Brown who sings in English.

On his previous album, Hakim recorded a song called El Salaam Aleikum, which refers to the Arabic greeting "Peace Be Upon You".

When Brown first heard the song, which became a huge hit in the Arab world, he liked it so much he wanted to rerecord it with Hakim for El Yomen Dol. But Hakim believed the song was already too popular to re-record, so he and Brown settled on Lela which means ‘night' in Arabic.

Kelly Crane, Staff Reporter