The singer, dubbed the 'Godfather of Soul,' passed away unexpectedly in the hospital in Atlanta after suffering pneumonia. He also had diabetes and prostate cancer which was in remission.
Charles Bobbit, a close pal of Brown, said that hours before his death he was still hoping to headline a scheduled New Year's Eve gig on Sunday at the B.B. King Blues Club and Grill in New York.
Brown's glittering career kicked off when he joined a gospel group after serving a jail term for attempting to steal a car. He scored his first hit on the rhythm and blues chart with “Please Please Please” in 1956 and went on to boast 94 hits on Billboard's mainstream Hot 100.
Last month Brown performed at London's Alexandra Palace to mark his induction into the U.K. Music Hall of Fame, 20 years after entering the U.S. equivalent.
As well as enjoying individual success, Brown influenced an array of other music stars including Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Michael Jackson, as well as a string of rappers who sampled his unique grooves.
Singer Little Richard says the soul star will be remembered as an innovator and inspiration.
He says, "Rap music, all that stuff came from James Brown."
Jagger adds, "He was a whirlwind of energy and precision and he was always very generous and supportive to me in the early days of the (Rolling) Stones.
"I have always been a huge admirer of him as a performer and a band leader. His passing is a huge loss to music."
Other stars leading tributes to Brown include civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who hailed the singer as a social force as well as a musical genius.
He says, "They call him Godfather of Soul--if soul means feeling and passion and pathos and cultural sensitivity, he embodied soul."
Brown juggled his musical success with a turbulent personal life. He married four times and was plagued with charges of drug and alcohol abuse.
He will be buried on Saturday in his hometown of Augusta, Georgia, after a funeral in New York City, according to his management company.
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