August 9, 2014 Feel James Brown’s Groove: Get On Up
“The Amazing Mr Please Please himself, the hardest working man in show business, ladies and gentlemen, the star of our show, James Brown,” proclaimed longtime MC Danny Ray as he introduced Mr Dynamite a thousand times or more.
Universal Pictures ‘Get On Up’ is an inspiring, emotional and masterful biopic of James Brown, one of the most influential American artists of the 20th century.
James Brown grew up in abject poverty, mostly raised by an auntie who ran a Georgian Flop House. He was preordained to be the Godfather of Soul, finding his roots in gospel while incarcerated at the juvenile detention center in Toccoa, Georgia.
It took Academy Award-winning producer Brian Grazer two decades to finally be able to tell this incredible story, which I thoroughly recommend to audiences around the globe.
I laughed, I cried, I grooved and, most of all, I appreciated the tremendous performances of Chadwick Boseman as James Brown, Nelsan Ellis as James Brown’s friend Bobby Byrd, Dan Aykroyd as James Brown’s longtime manger Ben Bart and the rest of this star-studded cast.
From R&B to funk, hip-hop and rap, James Brown has profoundly impacted generations of American musicians. Brown’s career lasted over six decades. In a span of 38 years he registered 116 singles on Billboards Hot 100 singles chart. Brown was a tireless performer and a showman extraordinaire.
Director Tate Taylor explains, “After saving the city of Boston from riots the night Dr Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, and also recoding ‘Say It Loud – I’m Black and Proud’ he unexpectedly became the voice of Black America. He went to Vietnam and met with soldiers; he went to the White House and met Presidents.”
‘Get On Up’ is a remarkable story made for the big screen by some of the finest artists in the business. The film debuts previously unheard Brown recordings, including live versions of “Please, Please, Please” and “It’s a Man’s Man’s World,” taken from never released recordings of a 1966 concert in Tampa, Fla.
I particularly enjoyed Dan Aykroyd’s performance reminiscent of his Academy Award nomination in 1990 for ‘Driving Miss Daisy.’ Having worked with James Brown on the Blues Brothers, Dr Detroit and the Blues Brothers 2000, Aykroyd told me that “James Brown has his complications and deficiency as a human being but he loved people. I think the filmmakers are reflecting that love, and he’d be happy with the way he’s being portrayed, which is on the verge of spiritual channeling him. Although James Brown got close to people, there was always a bit of distance. He was almost regal. Chad catches all of that in his performances.”
The Godfather of Soul influenced many artists including producer and front man of the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger. “I copied all of his moves, I used to do the slide across the stage, when you move laterally from one side to the other twisting your foot on one leg. I couldn’t do the splits, so I didn’t even bother,” recalls an exuberant Jagger.
It takes extraordinary fortitude to get to the top and unbelievable stamina to stay there. James Brown rewrote the playbook, he hoisted the bar of excellence many notches higher. Go see ‘Get On Up’ and feel Mr Dynamite’s groove.
Earth Dr Reese Halter is a broadcaster and biologist. His upcoming book is Shepherding the Sea:The Race To Save Our Oceans.
Text © by Dr Reese Halter 2014. All rights reserved.