Music fans loved him as the hardest-working man in show business. They loved him as Dad.
Two of James Brown's daughters, Deanna Brown Thomas and Dr. Yamma Brown, are chief among the folks who can't wait for “Get on Up,” the movie about their late father, coming out Aug. 1.
“His life story to me is survival,” Thomas, president of the James Brown Family Children Foundation and founder of the James Brown Academy of Musik Pupils, said during an interview in Augusta. “Coming up in the segregated South, poor and uneducated, his musical abilities were definitely a gift from God.”
Brown died of congestive heart failure due to pneumonia on Christmas Day 2006 at age 73. He was born in South Carolina, but moved to Augusta when he was 6. He grew up in his great-aunt's brothel, shining shoes, and singing and dancing for tips on the city's streets.
After his death, a most lively memorial service was held in the Augusta arena that now bears his name. Michael Jackson, Dick Gregory and the Rev. Al Sharpton were among those who came to celebrate the life of Brown, laid out in a 24-karat gold casket as musical performers rocked the 8,100-seat James Brown Arena, which was filled to capacity.
Talk of the movie about him began when Brown was still alive, Thomas said. Her father was sort of lukewarm about the idea.
“He wasn't all that grand about a movie because he knew Hollywood would do the good and the bad,” she said. Indeed, the movie's trailer depicts some of Brown's interactions with the law and various love interests.
The movie was directed by “The Help” director Tate Taylor and stars Chadwick Boseman, who played Jackie Robinson in “42,” as Brown.
“We were very pleased with Chadwick Boseman,” Thomas said, noting how hard the actor worked to perfect Brown's onstage moves.
The movie was something of a family affair, with Brown relatives serving as consultants. Thomas' son, a SCAD-Savannah graduate, worked on the movie crew, and a cousin worked in music production for the film, she said.
“Get on Up” will be screened in advance on Thursday in Augusta, with a party planned afterward at the Augusta Museum of History, where a trove of James Brown memorabilia is on display. The trailer was played last week at Paine College in Augusta, where Dr. Yamma Brown spoke at the Sixth Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church's Joint Annual Conference.
“My father was an extremely humble man,” said Yamma Brown, an Atlanta pharmacist and vice president of the James Brown Family Children Foundation. “He rode around in the city. He didn't have a chauffeur. He loved Augusta. This is home. I'm so glad the ‘Get on Up' premiere is coming here. We're happy to be able to celebrate this movie in dad's home because he would have wanted it no other way. Augusta is where he learned how to boogie on the streets. The world knew him as the Godfather of Soul. At the end of the day, he was my daddy.”
Want to go to the premiere?
WHAT? “Get On Up” screening, after-party
WHEN? Screening is Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Regal Augusta Exchange; after-party will be held at the Augusta Museum of History
TICKETS? Tickets to the screening are $50 at www.showclix.com/event/GetonUpAugusta12. For tickets to the after party, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 845-402-2200, ext. 105.
Donna Dixon and Dan Aykroyd attend the world premiere of "Get On Up" at the Apollo Theater on Monday, July 21, 2014, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)×
Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP James Brown’s companion Tomi Rae Hynie, right, and son James Brown II attend the premiere of “Get On Up.”×