“Say it Loud” – The Godfather of Soul

“Get on Up” today, not sure what to say.

Complicated man, how to portray?

Right to wrong, from wrong to right.

What the people say?  He’s Mr. Dynamite!

Laid to rest, Lord can it be?  Deserves respect. Lord let it be.

DonnaMarie Woodson

Get on Up

Get on Up is the new biopic directed by Tate Taylor and chronicles the life and career of “The Godfather of Soul” James Brown.  Chadwick Boseman portrays Brown and channels his essence through his speech, gait and definitely in his dance moves.

The film employs several devices to tell the story.  “Breaking the 4th wall” as the actor speaks directly into the camera to make commentary, “flashbacks” to early childhood traumas and “internal monologues” from Brown’s child self.

 The supporting cast serve as witnesses and testifiers and underscore the storytelling. Jordan and Jamarion Scott portray “little James Brown.”  Their performance was both moving and haunting. Being able to convey the harshness of Brown’s early life enables the audience to empathize with the complexities of James Brown’s personality and relationships.

Directed by Tate Taylor
Produced by Brian Grazer
Mick Jagger
Tate Taylor

 “Susie” (Viola Davis) Brown’s mother’s performance was intense and desperate. Through her we see a psyche damaged by life and circumstances.

“Bobby Bird” (Nelsan Ellis) was a lifeline throughout Brown’s career. Proof that we all need support. No one can make it totally on their own. (even if YOU think so)

James Brown has been a huge influence on a myriad of musical acts including Michael Jackson, Prince and The Rolling Stones. “Make it Funky” wasn’t only a song lyric but also a musical credo for – as he insisted on being addressed – Mr. Brown.

James Brown was also influential politically playing to a crowd at the Boston Garden after Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968. He was able to calm the crowd and reminded them as black people we should respect one another. My personal favorite memory is the song “Say it Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud.” I had an English teacher who had us dissect the song and express how it made us feel. At that time referring to one’s self as Black was radical. We were still being referred to as Negroes. This song compelled youth to recognize our importance and power.

James Brown recorded 16 number-one singles on the Billboard R&B charts. Brown was also honored by many institutions including inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame.  Mr. Brown is ranked seventh on the music magazine Rolling Stones list of its 100 greatest artists of all time.

Call him a genius, crazy, or just a complicated man, “Mr. Please, Please, Please, “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business,” “Mr. Dynamite,” “The Godfather of Soul” was an artist, force and important contributor to our musical and political landscape.  That significance deserves to be remembered and celebrated.

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