He was born in Barnwell, South Carolina and grew up in Augusta, Georgia. Brown was arrested by police on many occasions. When he was 16, he was convicted of armed robbery, for which he spent three years in a youth detention center. His other convictions include assaults.
In 2006, Brown died of pneumonia and heart disease in Atlanta. There was a public memorial service at Apollo Theater. Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Prince were there. In 1993 Brown was in The Simpsons episode Bart's Inner Child.