• Sun. Apr 14th, 2024

New James Brown doc reveals how he helped make black beautiful with his ‘Say It Loud’ anthem

New James Brown doc reveals how he helped make black beautiful with his ‘Say It Loud’ anthem


At the beginning of the new documentary “James Brown: Say It Loud” — a four-part series that premieres Monday and then continues Tuesday on A&E — the Godfather of Soul himself breaks down exactly why his 1968 anthem “Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud” changed the way African-Americans saw and spoke of themselves as “black.” 

“‘Black’ is a [bad] thing that was basically put on …the black man in America,” says an Afroed Brown in archival footage.

“And hey, I’m black and I’m proud, but I really don’t want to have to say, ‘I’m black,’ [as if] you had to say, ‘You’re white.’ I want to say that we’re people and that we’re brothers and that we got the same fight.”

“I’m black and I’m proud, but I really don’t want to have to say, ‘I’m black,’ [as if] you had to say, ‘You’re white,’ ” says James Brown in the new A&E doc about the soul legend. Tom Copi

But after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in April 1968, there was no such equality yet for black Americans. The fight was still very much on to get there.

“It’s probably one of the most bravest things and the most political thing that James Brown has ever done,” says Oscar-winning filmmaker Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson — who executive-produced the project along with Mick Jagger — in the doc.

“It’s the original Black Lives Matter.”

“That song was dangerous, aggressive and political,” adds Public Enemy leader Chuck D. “But I’m 8 years old … All I know is it’s funky, I’m saying the word ‘black,’ and we ain’t ‘colored’ no more.”

Indeed, the black-is-beautiful anthem  — which was inspired after the Black Panthers pressured Brown to make a stronger statement as the most popular and influential African-American performer in the US — reframed how his entire race represented themselves to the country.

“He changed our self-identity,” says Rev. Al Sharpton in the doc. “He changed the culture. He changed how white America looked at us because it’s different when your chest is out and you’re proud, ’cause now you gotta handle me differently.”

Godfather of Soul James Brown is accurately described as “authentically and unapologetically black” in the new A&E documentary “James Brown: Say It Loud.” Getty Images

But Brown — who is accurately described as “authentically and unapologetically black” in the doc —didn’t get to be Soul Brother No. 1 by not making many other groundbreaking moves along the way before his death in 2006.

However, after he was born in a shack in Barnwell , South Carolina in 1933, he almost didn’t live to change the course of music history.

“There was no breathing, there was no sound. It didn’t look like he was gonna come through,” says daughter Deanna Brown.

“They basically beat life into him,” says James Brown’s daughter Dr. Yamma Brown of her father, who was not breathing at first when he was born in 1933. Look Magazine Collection/Library of Congress

“But then all of sudden,” she adds before letting out one of her father’s trademark screams, “he was alive.”

“They basically beat life into him,” adds another daughter, Dr. Yamma Brown. “He always used to say, ‘I was born dead, so I had to make a life for myself.’ ”

And a legendary life it was. Brown overcame an abusive father who led his mother to abandon the family, having only a seventh-grade education, and going to prison at 15 for car theft to find his musical destiny.

“James Brown: Say It Loud” shows all the blood, sweat and capes that earned him the title of “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business.” Redferns

After taking inspiration from Little Richard in the ’50s — he used to impersonate the “Tutti Frutti” pioneer, standing in when his longtime friend couldn’t make gigs — Brown was working as a janitor when he recorded and released his breakout classic “Please Please Please” in 1956.

And “James Brown: Say It Loud” — a perfect watch for Black History Month — shows all the blood, sweat and capes that earned JB the title of “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business.”



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