Bobby Byrd (1934–2007) 

Millions of music fans might never have heard the name Bobby Byrd, but through recordings by Public Enemy, Eric B. & Rakim, Ice Cube, LL Cool J, and A Tribe Called Quest, who famously sampled his bracing funk jams, they were intimately familiar with his work. 

Most of that work sprung from his impeccable collaboration with R&B legend James Brown, whom Byrd discovered. In the mid-1950s, Byrd led a vocal group called the Avons. After meeting Brown in a Georgia youth detention facility baseball game (Brown was an inmate; Byrd was not), Byrd asked Brown to join to the band. They became the Flames, then the Famous Flames, and finally, when Brown assumed lead vocals, James Brown and the Famous Flames. Byrd contributed lyrics, keyboards, guidance, and occasional vocals to many of Brown's biggest hits. It is Byrd's voice that can be heard, along with Brown's, on the hit "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine," and on "Licking Stick." 

The two worked together for decades-a relationship that was productive, if also stormy and marked by lawsuits. Even so, Byrd was the only member of the Flames to remain with Brown when the group disbanded in 1968. Byrd was married to soul singer Vicki Anderson, another James Brown collaborator. 

On September 12th 2007, with Anderson and a large, close family by his side, Byrd died of cancer, at the age of 73. Heaven just got a little more funky. --Joe Bosso