Uzee Brown, Jr. was born on June 13, 1950, in Cowpens, South Carolina, to Alline Gaffney Brown from Thickety Mountain, South Carolina, and Uzee Brown, Sr. His siblings included Willie Brown, Sr., Ethelene Brown Palmer, Delois Brown Daniels, Daisy Dawkins, and Zebedee Brown. His education began in 1956 at Cowpens’ Ralph J. Bunche Elementary School.
Uzee Jr. graduated as valedictorian from Benjamin E. Mays High School in Pacolet Mills, South Carolina, in 1968. Following that, he enrolled at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, where he joined the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
During his senior year, Brown performed as Parson Alltalk with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in Scott Joplin’s opera Treemonisha, which had its world premiere at the Atlanta Memorial Arts Center. He moved to Austria in 1972 after receiving a Bachelor of Music degree in music, where he studied music at Kunstuniversität Graz in Vienna and then the Università di Siena in Tuscany, Italy. Brown performed as a soloist at the inauguration of U.S. President James (Jimmy) Carter Jr. in 1977.
Brown received his Master of Music in Composition from Bowling Green State University in Ohio, as well as his Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in Performance from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Brown has written music for filmmaker Spike Lee, including the musical prologue to the 1988 film School Daze. In addition, he was a co-founder and chairman of the Board of Directors of Onyx Opera Atlanta, a non-profit operatic ensemble founded in 1988. They primarily perform works by African American composers.
Brown was elected to Morehouse College’s Board of Trustees in 1988, and later that year he was nominated for an Audelco award in Black theater for “Outstanding Musical Director and Arranger” of the off-Broadway musical play Zion, which was performed at Atlanta’s Theater in the Square during the 1996 Centennial Olympics. Brown was president of the National Association of Negro Musicians at the time, the country’s oldest organization of professional African American musicians. In that capacity, he directed and completed the Center for Black Music Research’s research on the Documentary History of the National Association of Negro Musicians.
“We Shall Overcome,” Brown’s arrangement of the Negro Spiritual, was produced in 1999 for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s Martin Luther King Jr. tribute. Women of the Fire, his cantata, premiered the following year at New York’s Lincoln Center. Brown played Frazier in the Atlanta Opera’s production of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess in 2005, and he reprised the role in France, Luxembourg, and Spain in 2008. Members of the South Carolina House of Representatives took legislative action in 2016 during the 121st Session of the South Carolina General Assembly to honor Brown for his outstanding lifetime accomplishments as a native of the state.
Uzee Brown, Jr.’s composition for organ, “Triumphal March of Heritage,” was performed as the postlude in 2021 at the 155th Session of the North Georgia Annual Conference of “A Bell Tolls” at the United Methodist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. It had been commissioned earlier that year to commemorate the inauguration of Morehouse College’s eighth president, Leroy Keith.