Museum honors soul legend James Brown
The Godfather of Soulâs spirit continues to live on today. James Brownâs success as a gospel, pop and soul artist is impossible to overlook.
The GRAMMY Museum at L.A. Live opened its new exhibition, âSay It Loud: The Genius of James Brown,â on Sept. 17. Celebrating the life and career of Brown, the displays illustrate how Brown has greatly influenced music and pop culture since his heyday.
Brownâs music has visitors tapping their feet or busting a move or two on a small color-changing dance floor, similar to the one in Saturday Night Fever.
Vibrant hues of orange, teal, purple and red make the room very lively, especially with pixilated images of Brown in entertaining poses on the walls.
The life-sized images of him with his 1950s three-inch pompadour are decorated everywhere, making viewers feel as if Brown is in the room with them.
The museum makes use of Brownâs multiple nicknames â Mr. Dynamite, the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, and of course, Sex Machine â and prints them up high on the roomâs colorful walls.
âSay It Loudâ describes Brown as a musical renaissance man through his ventures songwriting, leading a band and being aÂ soulful singer.
For music history buffs, there is excellent historical information for each portion of the exhibition.
Displays discuss how Brown taught himself to play multiple instruments, ultimately leading him to be known for his vocal improvisations and dynamic music. He infused his music with gospel music and the secular sound of the blues.
The exhibition focuses on Brownâs contribution to the evolution of hip-hop. A video interview titled âHow James Brown Influenced Hip-Hopâ shows rappers Too-Short, Run-DMC and Chuck D discussing Brownâs influence. Run-DMC describes him as âpowerful.â Chuck D recounts a childhood of listening to Brown every time his parents turned on his music.
Another video features some of Brownâs good friends, including Mike Hartt, who provided several of the showcased items. Bootsy Collins, Brownâs bass player and a member of Parliament-Funkadelic, is also shown in footage of a previous special event at the GRAMMY Museum. He believes Brown is âstill the man.â
The exhibitionâs non-chronological set up makes being there a unique experience. It shows Brown as a man with an iconic voice and shares trends he set in the worlds of dance and fashion.
Shown by various photos and videos, the highlight of his performances was the passion he put into his stage antics.
A screen in front of the exhibitionâs dance floor shows a video of Brown demonstrating popular old-school dances â such as the Boogaloo, Funky Chicken, Camel Walk, Robot and Soul Train â that he used to perform.
Videos of Brown doing these dances and his signature move incorporating the Mashed Potato with sudden slides and splits are amusing to watch. He is described as a ârubber-limbed dancer.â
Judging by the selection of stage outfits showcased in all their glory, it is clear Brown made sure to stand out in a crowd. A purple and black jumpsuit, purple cape and charismatic black suits on display show his funky side. His fringed western clothes and cowboy boots put a twist on his already eccentric collection of threads.
The exhibition does a fantastic job revealing the type of man Brown was, even briefly touching upon Brownâs involvement with the fight for civil rights.
His song âSay It Loud (Iâm Black and Iâm proud),â which inspired the name of the exhibit, was an anthem encouraging black pride among black Americans.
Though the exhibit could probably be expanded to include more relics, visitors can still spend a good amount of time looking at the entire collection.
The fun, personal items, such as handwritten lyrics on aged Holiday Inn stationery, old albums, photos, ticket stubs and posters come together nicely to give an inside look into Brownâs legendary life.
âSay It Loud: The Genius of James Brownâ will be open until Jan. 22.