The movie - Get On Up - a big screen full feature, is the biopic on the life of James Brown opening across the country August 1st. Chadwick Boseman, who starred as Jackie Robinson in the movie biopic “42” is quite the character actor. He transforms into Mr. Brown. He prepared six months for the part and it took him three months to come out of character. He is terrific and one of the best character actors of our day. The acting is superb. Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Jill Scott and Dan Ackroyd are also in the cast. The unspoken hero of the movie is the Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger who was a Brown admirer. He is one of the film’s producers.
The movie was discussed during Brown’s lifetime and he told them they would have difficulty in finding someone to play him. The film was shot in Natchez, Mississippi.
Brown’s life was made for the movies. He is truly the American rag to riches success story. He was a very poor child living in substandard poverty shack conditions, like they were in a Third World country in the South. Brown was born in South Carolina and eventually moved to Augusta, Georgia, which became known as his home. Both of his parents left him to be a grown up child far too soon. He was raised in a brothel where he solicited the soldiers to come to his aunt’s house to see the pretty girls. His career began in church, where he heard gospel music and saw the charismatic behavior of the southern Black preacher. He adopted both. These styles were to influence him forever and he was on his way to developing his own unique musical style.
As a young teen Brown was sent to jail after stealing a suit of clothing. He was released when his life long friend Bobby Byrd, went to his mother to ask if Brown could join their household. Brown recognized no family and became a part of the Byrd clan. Brown joined Byrd’s singing group, The Famous Flames. They sang in the traditional places at that time for Black performers “The Chittlin Circuit.” His recording, Please, Please, Please was a hit, inspired by Little Richard. His raspy soulful voice caught on, the record sold a million copies and the group became “James Brown and the Famous Flames.”
Brown had great business instincts. He wanted to do a live recording at the Apollo Theater. The record company didn’t agree. They did not think a live recording would sell. They were wrong.
Yet Brown insisted and paid for it himself. A star was born. He was developing his uniqueness, his very own sound. Soul. “ Live at the Apollo” was an instant hit selling a million copies and has become a classic in the world of R&B music.
The movie chronicles Brown - his stage appearances, his dancing, his music, and his style. And Chadwick has him down - his voice, his dazzling footwork and of course - his splits. He indeed captured Brown’s style. His music influenced generations to come. Michael’s dancing was Brown originated. The hip hoppers are still using his tracks. He is the most “sampled recording artist” to date. He was groundbreaking with his original touch from his hair to his stage energy.
The movie shows his mass appeal and a look at his personal life. He had quite a temper and was known to beat his wives. The movie fails to tell the story of Brown’s later years. He was imprisoned and his career took a downward turn. He became a musical icon, traveled the world as the Godfather of Soul. He hired the judge who sentenced him to jail time. The judge became his road manager. The James Brown Revue was fabulous. I saw it first hand. The band and the dancers were disciplined from dance steps to the horn’s cue. If anyone was out of step, off beat, or dressed incorrectly, they were fined and received Brown’s scorn. These were the James Brown Rules. Still to this day if you saw a real James Brown show you remember it. He wore you out.
In real life Brown was jailed multiple times and was on drugs. He spent a lot of time in rehab. His behavior became wild and he was often misusing his gun. He loved Christmas and was known to pass out dollar bills to the children of his community. Ironically he died on December 25, 2006 from pneumonia. He was 73 years old.
If you are a James Brown fan, this is a must see movie. If you are not a James Brown fan, please educate yourself.