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Brown had been suffering from cold, cough

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NEW: Friend: James Brown had been sick for months
• Singer didn't believe in saying he was feeling ill
• Brown, in hospital, to friend: "I'm going away tonight"
• Rev. Al Sharpton: "Literally changed the music industry"
• Funeral arrangements pending
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- James Brown, the legendary "Godfather of Soul" who died early Christmas morning, had been sick for months, according to a longtime friend.

Brown had had a cough for several months, but it worsened Friday in Augusta, Georgia, where he held his annual Christmas toy giveaway outdoors in rainy weather, said his friend and personal manager, Charles Bobbit. Other associates said Brown had also found a cold hard to shake, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Brown died at 1:45 a.m. Monday at Atlanta's Emory Crawford Long Hospital. The cause of death was congestive heart failure related to pneumonia, according to Brown's professional manager, Frank Copsidas. He was 73. (Read the obituary.)

Funeral arrangements are pending.

On Saturday, Brown traveled from his home in Augusta to Atlanta for a dental appointment, Copsidas told reporters.

The dentist urged him to see his doctor, who admitted the singer to the hospital on Saturday, Copsidas said.

After failing to improve by Sunday night, Brown canceled two shows scheduled for this week -- one in Waterbury, Connecticut, and the other in Englewood, New Jersey -- but expressed confidence that he would be able to perform Saturday in Red Bank, New Jersey, and on Sunday in Times Square, Copsidas said.

"His statement, and I quote: 'I'm the hardest-working man in show business and I will be there on New Year's Eve,' " he said. (Watch the incomparable Brown perform Video)

Bobbit, Brown's friend of nearly 40 years, visited the singer Sunday night at the hospital but wasn't initially aware of how sick he was.

"He didn't believe in telling you he didn't feel good because his thing was, 'I feel good -- doo dah doo dah doo dah doo,' " Bobbit said, using a line and rhythm from one of the singer's most famous songs, "I Got You (I Feel Good)." "That's just the way he was."

But the gravity of his condition was apparently not lost on Brown, who finally alluded to it late Sunday, Bobbit said. "He told me ... 'I'm going away tonight,' and my statement to him was, 'I don't know where you're going, because wherever you go, I'm going with you, unless you're going up there or over there, and I'm sorry, I can't go there with you.'

"So we both laughed about it."

But, despite treatment, Brown's condition continued to worsen.

"He sat down on the bed, and he laid back on the foot of the bed, and he sighed very, very quietly and very gently -- three times," Bobbit said. "Then, he closed his eyes and he was dead. I checked his pulse and there was no pulse, and I called the nurse, the nurse station, and they came down and they tried very diligently to revive him but it just wasn't there."

Bobbit said Brown had loved everyone with whom he came into contact. "His thing was, 'I never met a person that I didn't love. I met some that I didn't like, with their attitude, but I never met a person that I didn't love.' "

Copsidas conveyed what he said Brown would have wanted his fans to be told. "I can hear Mr. James Brown saying to me right now: 'Mr. Copsidas, please let everybody know that I wish them a very happy Christmas, a very merry Christmas, lots of love. They should love each other and, please, I would appreciate if they would remember me in their prayers.' "

Brown, who gave nearly 100 performances in 2006, had been scheduled to embark on a two-week tour of Canada.

His last performance was at the UK Hall of Fame Music Awards in London on November 14.

Towering figure

Brown was a pioneer of soul music, rhythm and blues and rap, famous for his energetic dance moves and his piercing vocal style. His all-stops-out performances earned him the nicknames "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business," "Soul Brother Number One" and "Mr. Dynamite." (Gallery: James Brown through the years)

"Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," "Please, Please, Please" and "Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)" were among his many hits, songs that revolutionized popular music and paved the way for funk, rap and hip-hop.

He was a member of the Georgia Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

"What James Brown was to music in terms of soul and hip-hop, rap, all of that, is what Bach was to classical music. This is a guy who literally changed the music industry. He put everybody on a different beat, a different style of music. He pioneered it," said the Rev. Al Sharpton, who modeled his pompadoured hairstyle after Brown's. Sharpton is expected to preside at the funeral.

In a written statement, President Bush said he and his wife "are saddened" by the death.

"For half a century, the innovative talent of the 'Godfather of Soul' enriched our culture and influenced generations of musicians. An American original, his fans came from all walks of life and backgrounds. James Brown's family and friends are in our thoughts and prayers this Christmas."

Brown had performed for every president since Richard Nixon, "and he was very proud of that," Copsidas said.

Brown is survived by his fourth wife, Tomi Rae Hynie, and at least four children -- two daughters and sons Daryl and James Brown II, Copsidas said.

Funeral arrangements were being prepared by Brown's family, in Augusta. Sharpton is expected to preside at the funeral, Copsidas said.


Brown

James Brown died early Christmas Day of congestive heart failure.

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