Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Oscar Brown, Jr.  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Poetry

Born: 1926 in Chicago, Illinois


Illinois Connection

Oscar Brown was born and raised on the south side of Chicago.

Biographical and Professional Information

Oscar Brown was a singer, songwriter, playwright, poet, civil rights activist, and actor. Brown's father had intended for him to follow in his footsteps and become a practicing lawyer. While he did help his father at his practice, he ventured off into other careers, such as advertising and serving in the army in the mid-1950s. When Mahalia Jackson recorded one of his songs, he began to focus on a career in music. Brown wrote at least 1,000 songs (only 125 have been published), twelve albums, and over a dozen musical plays.The book, What It Is — Poems and Opinions of Oscar Brown Jr., included lyrics to some of his better-known songs, as well as lyrics to songs Brown never got to record.

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