GET ON UP
What happened to the funk?

2 STARS

Film Review © 2014 by Trip Reynolds

Drama

Directed by Tate Taylor; Screenplay by Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth; Story by Steven Baigelman, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth. Produced by Brian Grazer, Erica Huggins, Mick Jagger, and Victoria Pearman; Executive Produced by Peter Afterman, Trish Hofmann, and John Norris; Associate producer Robin Mulcahy Fisichella.

Starring: Chadwick Boseman (as James Brown), Nelsan Ellis (as Bobby Byrd), Dan Aykroyd (as James' record executive/manager/friend, Ben Bart), Viola Davis (James' mother, Susie Brown), Lennie James (as James' father, Joe Brown), Fred Melamed (as record executive, Syd Nathan), Craig Robinson (as Maceo Parker), Jill Scott (as James' wife, DeeDee Brown), Octavia Spencer (as Aunt Honey), Josh Hopkins (as Ralph Bass); Brandon Smith (as Little Richard), Tika Sumpter (as Yvonne Fair), Tariq Trotter (as Pee Wee Ellis), Aloe Blacc (as Nafloyd Scott), Keith Robinson (as Baby Roy); Nick Eversman (as Mick Jagger), and a host of others.


Hopefully, you're discover alot about the film industry and James Brown with this expanded review. So, please get some popcorn and a Coke, and read on, you're going to be here a little while.

THE BUSINESS. Most importantly, "Get On Up" is not a "Hollywood" film, and yes, it matters. This is "British" film, produced by legendary rock and roll artist Mick Jagger. Why? After being upstaged by Brown on the old Ed Sullivan show back in the early 1960s, Mick Jagger grew to respect Brown's talent, and like so many others (MC Hammer, Big Daddy Kane, but especially Michael Jackson and especially Prince), Jagger elevated his on-stage movements and dancing in the wake of experiencing the explosive force of James Brown. Perhaps, Jagger thought, "Given Brown's iconic stature, where's the bio-pic about Brown?" Unfortunately, it's an established fact that "Hollywood" does not make "Black" films because of long held concerns that "Black films" (any movie featuring a Black man or woman in a "leading" role) do not earn enough money in the U.S. and especially foreign markets:

There’s a ton of buzz around China as its number of screens has skyrocketed from 9,286 in 2011 to 18,195 in 2013. Box office take-home net is smaller there than in other countries, but studios are excited to get in on the ground floor of this exponentially growing market. “Studios usually use a combined 42 percent repatriation rate with other countries, about 47 percent within the U.S., and in China they have their own special deals at around 25 percent,” says Jeffrey Hardy, analyst at Film Profit and Baseline Intelligence. For example, if a film grossed $100 million in the U.K., its U.S. distributor takes $40 million. In China, that distributor would only take in $25 million, which begs the question—is a film going to do 60 percent better in China? Source: StudioSystemNews.com

So, since nearly 50% to 60% of total film revenue comes for foreign markets, featuring Black people in leading roles for "major" theatrically released films does not occur unless:

(a) the film prominently features major White stars in co-starring "buddy" roles ("Men in Black" with Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith; "Rush Hour" with Jackie Chan (to capture the Asian markets) and Chris Tucker; "48 Hours" with Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy; "Silver Streak" with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor; and on and on (see "Exhibit B" below); or

(b) it's a "period" film that showcases how White people successfully enslaved and continue to oppress and discriminate against Black people as with the recent slate of blatantly pretentious "never-forget-they-were-slaves-flims" like Steven Spielberg's 2012 pseudo-fantasy film "Lincoln," and Quentin Tarantino's 2012 "Django Unchained," and Steve McQueen's 2013 "12 Years A Slave."

George Lucas (creator of the "Star Wars" film franchise) spent 23 years trying to get "Hollywood" to finance and produce "Red Tails," finally released in 2012, a World War II movie about the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, but unfortunately, it featured an all-Black cast. "Hollywood" refused to finance the film, so Lucas used his own money ($58 million) to finance the film. Given the lack of support from the "Hollywood" industrial complex (writing, production, distribution, exhibition, and promotion) "Red Tails" lost money. Keep in mind, the rest of the world is keenly aware the United States openly engaged in genocide, slavery, oppression, discrimination, and the continuing skewed incarceration of Black people; plus, propaganda from the U.S. continues to fuel the flame that Black people have no value in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world. Black people are primarily marketed as clowns, buffoons, or minstrels, and that's how "Hollywood" markets "those people" to the world. What, you don't agree? Take a look at the following list of the largest grossing films with Black people in leading roles with a predominately Black cast.

Exhibit A

TOP 10
FILM
YEAR
LEAD ACTOR
TOTAL REVENUE
REVENUE - U.S. DOMESTIC
REVENUE - INTERNATIONAL

GENRE

1.
Coming To America
1988
Eddie Murphy
$288,752,301
$128,152,301 (44.4%)
$160,600,000 (55.6%)
Comedy
2.
Bad Boys II
2003
Will Smith & Martin Lawrence
$273,339,556
$138,608,444 (50.7%)
$134,731,112 (49.3%)
Comedy/Action
3.
Big Momma's House
2000
Martin Lawrence
$173,959,438
$117,559,438 (67.6%)
$56,400,000 (32.4%)
Comedy
4.
Dreamgirls
2006
Beyoncé Knowles, Jamie Foxx, & Eddie Murphy
$154,937,680
$103,365,956 (66.7%)
$51,571,724 (33.3%)
Musical/Drama
5.
Bad Boys
1995
Will Smith & Martin Lawrence
$141,407,024
$65,807,024 (46.5%)
$75,600,000 (53.5%)
Comedy/Action
6.
Big Momma's House 2
2006
Martin Lawrence
$138,259,062
$70,165,972 (50.7%)
$68,093,090 (49.3%)
Comedy
7.
Boomerang
1992
Eddie Murphy
$131,052,444
$70,052,444 (53.5%)
$61,000,000 (46.5%)
Comedy
8.
Ray
2004
Jamie Fox
$124,731,534
$75,331,600 (60.4%)
$49,399,934 (39.6%)
Musical/Drama
9.
Little Man
2006
Shawn Wayans & Marlon Wayans
$101,595,121
$58,645,052 (57.7%)
$42,950,069 (42.3%)
Comedy
10.
Are We There Yet
2005
Ice Cube & Mia Long
$97,918,663
$82,674,398 (84.4%)
$15,244,265 (15.6%)
Comedy

Sources: Box Offie Mojo

Now, you might think (erroneously) that surely Denzel Washington and/or Samuel L. Jackson have starred in a "Black film" that's made a bunch of money, right? Wrong. Washington's highest grossing starring role in a theatrically released film, that kinda had a predominately Black cast, is "American Gangster (2007)," which generated $130,164,645. Keep in mind, to attract "White audiences," Washington's co-star in "American Gangster" was Academy Award® winning White actor, Russell Crowe. So, count "American Gangster" as a buddy film. Jackson's highest grossing starring role in a theatrically released film, with a predominately Black cast, is . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . . "Coming to America." Yep, that's right. Given the list above, it makes since for 6'5" producer/director/actor Tyler Perry to dress-up as a woman, after all, making the Black male image effeminate has worked pretty well for 5'8" Martin Lawrence and 5'9" Eddie Murphy. By the way, as of September 1, 2014 the U.S. domestic total for "Get On Up" is only $29,812,100, and the film has not yet been released internationally. Will "Get On Up" generate as much revenue as the biopic "Ray (2004)"? Unlikely.

Nevertheless, to appease Black people and to avoid alienating White audiences a unique phenomenon was devised: for “smaller” films (typically with smaller budgets) that play better domestically [United States] than internationally [world-wide] its okay to feature Black people in leading roles, but for “larger” films (typically with bigger budgets) Blacks must, must be paired with a White actor to give the films better "marketability and credibility." Here, take a look at just a few examples:

Exhibit B

White Actor
Black Actor
Film Title
Beau Bridges Bubba Smith The Wild Pair
Jackie Chan Chris Tucker Rush Hour
Jackie Chan Chris Tucker Rush Hour 2
Jackie Chan Chris Tucker Rush Hour 3
Nick Nolte Eddie Murphy 48 Hours
Nick Nolte Eddie Murphy Another 48 Hours
Owen Wilson Eddie Murphy I Spy
Willem Dafoe Gregory Hines Off Limits
James Belushi Gregory Hines Who Killed Atlanta's Children?
Billy Crystal Gregory Hines Running Scared
Vincent D'Onofrio Gregory Hines Good Luck
Mikhail Baryshnikov Gregory Hines White Nights
Owen Wilson Jackie Chan Shanghai Noon
Steven Seagal Keenen Ivory Wayans The Glimmer Man
Gene Wilder Richard Pryor See No Evil, Hear No Evil
Gene Wilder Richard Pryor Another You
Gene Wilder Richard Pryor Silver Streak
Gene Wilder Richard Pryor Stir Crazy
Tommy Lee Jones Will Smith Men In Black
Tommy Lee Jones Will Smith Men In Black 2
Tommy Lee Jones Will Smith Men In Black 3
Kevin Klein Will Smith Wild, Wild West
Will Ferrell Kevin Hart Get Hard

Notably, in White-produced films where Black people are not performing as slaves, the Black actor typically performs as “second banana” or as the comic "buffoon" or "criminal," but rarely as an equal or superior to the White-male. As established during the 1930s, it’s the job of the White male actor to “carry” the film. Consider the career of comic actor Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry, also known as "Stepin' Fetchit." Although actually never more than a bit player or novelty act, Perry’s characteristic big and bulging eyes, slow talking drool, scared of ghosts mentality, and shuffling and jiving banter was perceived by both White and Black audiences as the ubiquitous image of Black people (and then came Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, etc.) and, sadly, the dominant image seen by most White people. Some sources say Perry was one of the highest paid actors, Black or White, during the 1930s and 1940s. Conversely, Perry, who primarily used his comedic talents in films produced and marketed by White people, was never as popular in the limited number of appearances he made in films featuring all Black casts that were also produced, marketed, and directed by Black people. Second banana, buffoon, or criminal - these are the perfunctory roles of Black men and women in major release theatrical films.

Does the "demographic" of the star really matter? According to Jeffrey Hardy, analyst at Film Profit and Baseline Intelligence, “Agents may be selling actors as brands, but there’s not many brands. Johnny Depp has proved four movies in a row that he’s not a brand. Stars are simply part of the right package.” Jeff Forman, Walt Disney Studio’s senior VP of international theatrical sales and distribution, agrees. “It really comes down to having a great story with great talent attached and characters that people care about. No one element defines success. To have a really successful film it has to have a number of elements working together.”

For most Black people, the "Black people were slave films" do not function as entertainment, and they provide absolutely no historical narrative that "we" don't already know, but this is what "Hollywood" continues to export to the world. Keep in mind, the continued racism in "Hollywood" is not an accident, it's intentional and pervasive. Bruce Lee, the iconic martial artist and who was also a child film star in Hong Kong prior to coming to the U.S., was not allowed to produce and star in his own television series or U.S. based films, so he went back to Hong Kong and became the standard by which all martial artists are judged. It's 2014, why are there absolutely no Asian actors, male or female, routinely featured in leading roles in any "Hollywood" franchise film? It's 2014, why are there absolutely no Native American actors, male or female, routinely featured in leading roles in any "Hollywood" franchise film? It's 2014, why are there absolutely no Latin/Hispanic actors, male or female, routinely featured in leading roles in any "Hollywood" franchise film? The only reason "people of color" are not major box office draws in foreign markets, and these markets (China, Japan, India, Mexico, Indonesia, Mexico, etc.) are primarily composed of "people of color," is because White people in Hollywood are fearful they would lose their money-making pipeline to "people of color." Note the following fact: India may be number five in international box office rankings, but it’s not number five in terms of U.S. films—far from it. Local product has the strongest foothold in India over any other market. Alhough U.S. films screen there, new analysis from Media Partners Asia (MPA) shows that they grossed $160 million last year. According to the report, U.S. films have “the opportunity to expand growth beyond the eight metros as more than 20 percent of viewership comes from cities that have populations under one million.” Looking at the top 10 U.S. films in India last year, seven were action films and not one of them was animated. The top film, Life of Pi, hit home for audiences with its Indian star. Source: StudioSystemNews.com

Given the dramatic increase in the number of screens in China, "Hollywood" wants some of this business, but similar to India, China has its own local product, but unlike India, China has significantly greater financial and political resources to mandate the character and scope of its film industry. Plus, as China has done with the computer industry by purchasing IBM's personal computer and Intel-based server business, and with wireless technologies by becoming the world's largest wireless carrier, China will likely turn the tables on "Hollywood" by purchasing major "Hollywood" studios. Keep in mind, in 1989 Sony (Japan) purchased Columbia Pictures for this very same reason - control. You've been warned.

Okay, given that James Brown's success is largely U.S. based, why not focus on the U.S. market. Unfortunately, "Hollywood" has the same raced-based assessment for releasing so-called "Black" films in the United States. According to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and Nielsen's NRG’s (National Research Group’s) 2012 American Moviegoing report, 70 percent of Americans ages 12 and older reported seeing one or more movies at a theater in the last 12 months, which is in line with previous years. The demographic makeup of the moviegoing audience has remained relatively consistent over the last couple of years, but the proportion of younger moviegoers (12-24) and oldest moviegoers (65-74) has grown gradually at the expense of middle-aged moviegoers (25-54). Overall moviegoing has increased among Hispanics (12%), people aged 25-34 (7%), youths 12-17 (3%) and males (3%). Although there were slightly more female moviegoers than male moviegoers in 2012 (51% and 49%, respectively), men accounted for 55 percent of theatrical attendance. As represented by the graph at right, given the "racial demographics" of theatrical film audiences, as far as "Hollywood" is concerned, here's what "we" film goers look like.

Source: http://www.movieguide.org/news-articles/hollywood-demographics-2.html#.U96vjlY79-U

Source: http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2013/popcorn-people-profiles-of-the-u-s-moviegoer-audience.html

 

.

THE PROBLEM: Clearly, if "we" used "Hollywood's" racially-based system to determine who gets elected to a political office, Barack Obama (a Black man) could NEVER have been elected President of the United States - where the majority of voters are White; Ann Rice ( a woman) could not have been elected Governor of (testosterone) Texas; Harvey Milk could never become the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California, and so on. Sadly, Jeff Forman's comments above don't really apply in "Hollywood," because race, and sex, really do matter.

If the "Hollywood" industrial complex had written, produced, distributed, exhibited, and promoted films for Bruce Lee, he could and would have been "Hollywood's" first major U.S. produced Asian box-office star in the world, but racist "Hollywood" said no. Instead, after seeing Bruce Lee's cheaply produced Hong Kong films earn more than many U.S. films, "Hollywood" finally decided to feature Lee in his first and only U.S. produced feature film, "Enter the Dragon." So, given the "business" of getting this film about James Brown produced and released, thank you, very much, Mick Jagger, for having your production company to produce this tribute to an extremely talented man, James Brown, who just happened to be Black!

So, to make an "American" movie about James Brown is extremely difficult, particularly because (1) "Hollywood" has absolutely no financial interest to produce a "major" theatrically released film about a Black person, no matter how famous; and (2) the folly of "non-Hollywood" people, all with good intentions, who either (a) don't know enough about James Brown, or (b) are unable or unwilling to accurately and truthfully tell the James Brown story. Does it really matter that this is not an "American" film. Yes, absolutely, because the biggest problem with this film is that it didn't feel "Black" enough, which is understandable because it wasn't written or produced from a Black perspective, but from the perspective of some White men from Britain. No, I'm not being racist, but cultural. If you had the pleasure is seeing James Brown in his prime "live" in the hood, you'd know what I'm talking about. To prove my point, finally, here's my review of "Get On Up!"

INTRODUCTION. To create the appropriate atmosphere, the film should have started with a black screen with the following audio-only introduction by Danny Ray, Brown's most famous MC who appeared on stage with him for over 30 years:

I'd like to know, are you really ready for some super dynamite soul? Then thank you, 'cause now, it's star time! Introducing, ladies and gentlemen, the young man that's had over 35 soul classics. Among these classics are tunes that will never die - tunes like "Try Me" ... "Out of Sight" ... "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" ... "I Feel Good" ... like a "Sex Machine" ... because you're "Super Bad" ... "Get Up, Get Into It, and Get Involved!" ... because you've got "Soul Power!" Introducing the world's greatest entertainer, Mr. Dynamite, the amazing Mr. Please Please himself, the hardest working man in show business, ladies and gentlemen, the star of our show, James Brown!

But that's not what happend. Instead, for the first thirty minutes or so, film bounces back and forth between flashbacks of Brown as a child, or as an adult, or as a teenager and so forth and so on. Film also has Brown breaking the "fourth wall" by making comments directly to the viewing audience. This narrative technique helps, but eventually disappears later in the film, which is unfortunate because Brown's on-screen narratives provided insight absent from dialogue between characters in the film.

THE PERFORMER. James Brown's stage performance was explosive. Powerful. Arguably, only Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Jackie Wilson, and tap dancer Harold Nicholas could generate as much awe in their physical performance on stage. Sadly, the film missed this point. James Brown was appropriately labeled "Mr. Dynamite" because his performance was so powerful, so raw, and for anyone sitting in his audience, it was nearly impossible not be be affected by his unrestrained sweat-until-he-drops performance. In the film, far too much time was used by actor Chadwick Boseman showing James Brown doing the same dance steps throughout his entire career, which was not true.

Having personally attended many of Brown's concerts from the 1960s to the 1980s, it was great seeing Brown perform "Licking Stick-Licking Stick," and "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag," and "There Was A Time" and "Mother Popcorn" and watching him demonstrate the dances named in the aforementioned songs (Jerk, Mash Potatoes, Frankenstein, Camel Walk, Boogaloo, Monkey, The Spank, etc.). Equally important, Brown showed us his latest dance steps. Brown would dance his ass off! I don't think ya heard me. I'm gonna say it again like I did before, "James Brown would dance his ass off."

 

" Put your hands on your hip
and let your back bone slip . . .
and then spank!"

"Do your do,
be quiet as a mouse
. . . and then spank!"

 

It was 1978, I was living in Chicago, and I went to see James Brown perform at a local club in the "Black community" on Stoney Island in the southside of Chicago. James Brown walked out on stage (floor level) wearing a one-piece jump suit with the outline of handprints on both sides of his penis (see graphic at right), and the back of his jump suit had the same imprint on both of his butt cheeks. Brown starting singing his hit song, "Spank" (written by James Brown and Charles Sherrell) and literally rocked the place crazy, pretending to spank his own ass, and dancing up a storm, including doing full splits (he was 45 years old) and not the half-splits Boseman did throughout "Get On Up." It was an exciting performance, but such excitement was absent from this film.

Brown also demonstrated drama with his physical performance. Around 1985, I went to see Brown in Dallas, Texas. Brown came out wearing black pants and a black shirt and his hair was processed straight with not one hair out of place. He sang, standing at the microphone stand, grasping the microphone with one hand. He stood there singing as the tempo got faster, as the music got louder, and this continued for about 15 or 20 minutes. Again, he's singing, his body rocking at the microphone stand, but not one hair is out of place. The music began to crescendo even more intensely when without any warning, suddenly . . .

 


James Brown gives you dancing lessons

. . . Brown threw the microphone stand forward, turned around quickly 360 degrees, dropped down to a full split, and then quickly rose turning around again 180 degrees to catch the microphone stand on its way back to him, and with his hair now very disheveled Brown triumphantly and loudly turned around to his band and yelled, "Ummmmgh, hit me!" and the tempo changed again. I'm telling you, that was just baaaaaaaaaaaaaaddd! If Boseman had learned to do more than just mimic Brown, his physical performance would have truly been astonishing, but alas, this did not happen. Boseman failed to deliver Brown's classic mic-toss-spin-and-split routine, but Prince does this routine extremely well.

THE VOCALIST. Wisely, the film captured the greatness of Brown's vocal ability. Fred Melamed, as record executive, Syd Nathan, didn't say much in this film, but in reality Nathan and Brown were nearly always at odds with each other. However, Nathan and Ben Bart, as portrayed by Dan Aykroyd, clearly recognized Brown's stand-alone talent, and how the rawness of his vocal ability, as in "I've Got The Feelin'" rose above the arrangements, background vocals, and musicians that accompanied his performance. It wasn't the shouts, grunts, and wails that made Brown's voice so distinctive, but the total raw impact of throwing his entire essence into his vocal performance. Some sopranos and falsettos were surely amazed at how Brown's wails rose well above their abilities as he simultaneously used his voice to punctuate songs both before and after the beat. Brown deftly used the honesty his voice represented as an instrument to punctuate the chorus, the hook, and melody of his music. Without a doubt, Brown was to R&B as Luciano Pavarotti is to classical music, a standard for which others are judged. What, you disagree? Brown clearly holds his own in this classic duet with Luciano Pavarotti; watch it now by clicking here (YouTube.com) or here (to download).

THE CREATIVE GENIUS. There's a constant toe-tapping driving force to James Brown's music - you can't help but feel its raw energy! The background music for "Get On Up" did not drive the film, but should have. Songs like "Cold Sweat," and "I Can't Stand Myself (When You Touch Me)" and "Sex Machine" and "Doing It To Death" and "The Payback" and dozens more demonstrate this fact. Like, "Super Bad," Brown's music is akin to a train coming straight for you, and you'd better jump on or get out the way before his rhythms run you over! In Joel Whitburn's analysis of the Billboard R&B charts from 1942 to 2010, Hot R&B Songs, James Brown is ranked as number one in The Top 500 Artists. Brown is ranked seventh on the music magazine Rolling Stone's list of its 100 greatest artists of all time (Source: Wikipedia). James Brown wrote songs with intoxicating riffs, very deep bottoms often coupled with a crawling bass, and extremely tight syncopation. Conversely, even when Brown wrote ballads like "It's A Man's World," the raw and simple arrangement of this song says it all, "This is a man's world . . . but it would be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl." In the film, Bobby Byrd talks about Brown being a genius, but the film failed to show the how, when, where, why and what inspired the "Cold Sweat" of Brown's creative genius.

As his former band manager Fred Wesley validated, James was constantly innovative. Brown was one the most prolific and most frequently charted musicians in history of popular music in the U.S., having released 71 studio albums, 14 live albums, 144 singles, 14 "live" albums, 10 music videos, motion picture scores and more! In "Get On Up," Maceo Parker and others complained about Brown's musicianship, his orchestration, and money problems. A Frank Sinatra adage comes to mind: "It's Sinatra's world, we just live in it!" Likewise, Maceo and Fred Wesley failed to realize it was James Brown's world, and they were just living in it. As Syd Nathan and Ben Bart clearly conveyed, it was not a democracy! James Brown was the star! In real "life," Wesley left Brown's band and then later returned, because unlike Wesley's jazz musicians friends he sought after and catered to, Brown - as the hardest working man in show business - had a working and paying band. The film spent too much time charting Brown's problems with fellow musicians and band members, but did not spend equal or more time charting how Brown evolved his sound from the R&B mantra of "Mr. Dynamite" to "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business" to "Soul Brother No.1" to "Master of the New Super Heavy Funk" to "The Godfather of Soul (G.F.O.S.)!" Brown's successful collaborations with Bootsy Collins, George Clinton, and his backup band, the J.B.’s not only validated his creative genius, but also prompted the aforementioned collaborators to realize their career potential. To save screen time, film could have featured a split screen collage circa late 1970s or early 1980s of the concurrent success of James Brown, Prince, Michael Jackson, Bootsy, George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic, and stars of the new hip-hop and rap generation who sampled Brown's music. Film failed to show the character and scope of Brown's creative genius, which was a major flaw.

THE SOCIAL ARCHITECT. Lost was an opportunity to show the robust character and scope of Brown's involvement and leadership in the civil rights movement. Millions of Black people literally rallied around Brown's "Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud" song, because the song actually "shocked" Black (and White) people that they could be proud of who there are. In this country, prior the the civil rights movement, "publicly displayed" racial pride by Black people was nearly unheard of, in fact, as consistently conveyed by White people, being Black was a curse, an undesirable, something less than human. So, Black people spent hundreds of years changing their appearance and demeanor to look more "White-like," bleaching our skin, straightening our hair, all to be more White-like. Then, Brown released his song telling Black people to be proud of their skin, proud of their hair, proud of their looks. so.

That's why "Say It Loud" truly became the national anthem for Black people during the 1960s civil rights movement! Get it? Motown's legendary Smokey Robinson, a light-skinned Black man proudly refers to himself as a Black man, and he acknowledged James Brown's "Say It Loud" is his 2012 spoken word tribute, "Being Black." Although "Say It Loud" was featured in the film, Brown introduced many other songs with a similar impact on Black people, and to other people of color. Brown addressed concerns of many if not most White people that Black people are always begging White people for a "hand out." Brown's response was the song, "I Don't Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door I'll Get It Myself)."

In 1972, way before rap became in vogue, to address the increasing impact of drugs, and especially the negative impact on Black men, Brown released "King Heroin," a spoken word music performance. Given Brown's prolific content in this regard, the film could have included a montage of album covers and audio/video clips to capture this important aspect of Brown's career but failed to do so. All or portions of the following song lyrics could have been crawled on-screen, which would have provided more insight of how Brown used his music to challenge and inspire Black people, and to bring greater awareness to civil rights and drug abuse.

"Get On Up" didn't address why Brown's lyrics were also popular, such as "I don't know karate but I know craazzy!" from the 1973 film "Payback," and the film score and album by James Brown.

James Brown wrote compelling lyrics and music, and they remain as revelant now as they did when originally released.

I Don't Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door
I'll Get It Myself)

(Click title above to listen to song)

I don't want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I'll get it myself

I don't want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I'll get it myself

I don't want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I'll get it myself
Do you hear me?

I don't want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I'll get it myself

Don't give me integration
Give me true communication
Don't give me sorrow
I want equal opportunity
To live tomorrow

Give me schools
And give me better books
So I can read about myself
And who give me truly looks

I don't want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I'll get it myself
Do you hear me now, now?

I don't want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I'll get it myself

Some of us try
As hard as we can
We don't want no sympathy
We just wanna be a man

I don't want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I'll get it myself
Do you hear me?

I don't want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I'll get it myself

We got talents we can use
On our side of town
Let's get our heads together
And build it up from the ground

When some of us make money
People forget about our people
Forget about our honeys
Forget about our honey
Looky here now, looky here

Come on, I got to have it
Come on, I need it
I got to have it, come on
I got to have it, oh, ha

Lordy, Lordy, Lordy
Lordy, Lordy, Lordy

Play with your bad self
Come on, baby
Come here, looky here
Gotta get it

Got to get myself together
So many things I got to do
So many things I got to do
I don't need no help from you

Tell everybody, everybody else
All of these things, baby
I got to do it myself
Come on, hey

I got to have it
I, said I, said I
Said I, said I, I

I don't want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I'll get it myself

I don't want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I'll get it myself

We've used our sweat and blood
To put out every fire and block off every plug

I don't want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I'll get it myself
Do you hear me?

I don't want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I'll get it myself

I don't want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I'll get it myself

I'm not gonna tell
You what to do
I'm not gonna raise a fuss
But before you make another move
Let's start by taking care of us

I don't want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I'll get it myself
Do you hear me?

I don't want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I'll get it myself

Kids get that education
And don't you take no fall
'Cause we gonna get
This thing together
And you got to carry the ball

I don't want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
Open up the door

Open up the door
Open up the door
Open up the door
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey

I don't want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I'll get it myself

Can you dig the groove?
Can you make the move?
Can you dig the say?
Can you make the pay?

Dig the groove?
Can you dig it?
Tell me, can you dig it?
Tell me, can you?

 

Songwriter: James Brown

Published by
DYNATONE PUBLISHING COMPANY;
UNICHAPPELL MUSIC, INC

King Heroin
(Click title above to listen to song)

Ladies and gentlemen
Fellow Americans, lady Americans
This is James Brown
I wanna talk to you about one of our
Most deadly killers in the country today

I had a dream the other night
And I was sittin' in my living room
Dozed off to sleep, so I start to dreamin'
I dreamed I walked in a place and

I saw a real strange, weird object
Standin' up talkin' to the people
And I found out it was heroin
That deadly drug that go in your veins, he said

I came to this country without a passport
Ever since then I've been hunted and sought
My little white grains are nothin' but waste
Soft and deadly and bitter to taste

But I'm a world of power and all know it's true
Use me once and you'll know it, too
I can make a mere schoolboy forget his books
I can make a world famous beauty neglect her looks
I can make a good man forsake his wife
Send a greedy man to prison for the rest of his life

I can make a man forsake his country and flag
Make a girl sell her body for a five dollar bag
Some think my adventure's a joy and a thrill
But I'll put a gun in your hand and make you kill
er

In cellophane bags I've found my way
To heads of state and children at play
I'm financed in China, ran in Japan
I'm respected in Turkey and I'm legal in Siam

I take my addicts and make 'em steal, borrow, beg
Then they search for a vein in their arm or their leg
So, be you Italian, Jewish, Black or Mex
I can make the most virile of men forget their sex

So now, so now, my man, you must, you know do your best
To keep up your habit until you're arrest
Now the police have taken you from under my wing
Do you think they dare defy me, I who am king

Now, you must lie in that county jail
Where I can't get to you by visit or mail
So squirm with discomfort wiggle and cough
Six days of madness, hah and you might throw me off

Curse me in name, defy me in speech
But you'd pick me up right now if I were in your reach
All through your sentence you've become resolved to your fate
Hear now, young man and woman, I'll be waitin' at the gate
And don't be afraid, don't run, I'm not chased
Sure my name is Heroin, you'll be back for a taste

Behold, you're hooked, your foot is in the stirrup
And make haste, mount the steed
And ride him well
For the white horse of heroin will ride you to hell, to hell
Will ride you to hell until you are dead

Dead, brother dead
This is a revolution of the mind
Get your mind together
And get away from drugs
That's it man

 

Writer(s): James Brown, Dave Matthews, Manny Rosen, Charles Bobbitt
Copyright: Dynatone Publishing Company

 

SAY IT LOUD, I’M BLACK AND I’M PROUD!
(Click title above to listen to song)

Umph, wit’ yo bad self
Say it loud
I’m Black and I’m proud!
Say it loud
I’m Black and I’m proud!
Looky here, some people say we’ve got a lot of malice
Some say it’s a lot of nerve,
But I say we won’t quit movin’ until we get what we deserve!
We’ve been buked and we’ve been scum
We’re been treated bad, talkin’ bout as sure as you’re born.
But just as sure as its takes two eyes to make a pair, uhh
Brother, we can’t quit until we get our share.
Say it loud
I’m Black and I’m proud!
Say it loud
I’m Black and I’m proud!
One more time...
Say it loud
I’m Black and I’m proud!
Uhh.
I worked on a job
With my feet and my hands
But all the work I did was for the other man,
And now we demand a chance
To do things for ourselves
We’ve tired of beatin’ our heads against the wall
And workin’ for someone else!
Say it loud
I’m Black and I’m proud!
Say it loud
I’m Black and I’m proud!
Say it loud
I’m Black and I’m proud!
Say it loud
I’m Black and I’m proud!
Ohhhhhh!
Oh, wee, you’re killin’ me.
All right, uh, you’re outta sight
All night, so tuff, you’re tuff enough
Oh, wee, uh, you’re killin’ me, oh
Say it loud
I’m Black and I’m proud!
Say it loud
I’m Black and I’m proud!
And now, we demand a chance
To do things for ourselves
We’ve tired of beatin’ our heads against the wall
And workin’ for someone else!
Looky here, there’s one more thing I’d like to say right here.
Now, we’re people, we like the birds and the bees
But we’d rather die on our feet
Than keep living on our knees!
Say it loud
I’m Black and I’m proud!
Uhhh,
Say it loud
I’m Black and I’m proud!
Uhh,
Say it loud
I’m Black and I’m proud!
Lordy, Lordy, Lordy
Say it loud
I’m Black and I’m proud!
Ohhhhhhh!
All right now, good God,
You know we can do the Boogaloo
Now we can say we’ll do The Funky Broadway
Now we do...uh
Sometimes we dance, sing and we talk
You know I’ll jump back and do the Camel Walk.
All right now
Oh, right...uhh
Say it loud
I’m Black and I’m proud!
Say it loud
I’m Black and I’m proud!
Let me here ya!
Say it loud
I’m Black and I’m proud!
Say it loud
I’m Black and I’m proud!
Now, we demand a chance
To do things for ourselves
We’re tired of beatin’ our heads against the wall
And workin’ for someone else!
Uh.
You know, we are people too, we like the birds and the bees
But we’d rather die on our feet
Than keep living on our knees!
Say it loud
I’m Black and I’m proud!
Say it loud
I’m Black and I’m proud!
Let me hear ya, uh!
Say it loud
I’m Black and I’m proud!
Uh!
Say it loud
I’m Black and I’m proud!
Ohhhhhh!
Oh, wee, you’re killin’ me
All right, uh, outta sight
All right, uh, you’re outta sight
Oh, wee...ohhhhh naw....
Oh, wee, you’re killin’ me
Oh, wee
Oh, wee
Oh, wee
Oh, uh...
Say it loud
I’m Black and I’m proud!
Uh.
Say it loud
I’m Black and I’m proud!
Good God, I feel it.
Say it loud
I’m Black and I’m proud!
Say it loud
I’m Black and I’m proud!

Written by James Brown and Alfred Ellis
from the 33 & 1/3 record album - King Records, KS-1047
from the CD - Polydor, 42284 1992-2
from the Box Set “Star Time” Polydor, 849 108-2
Trio Music Company/Fort Knox Music (BMI)

THE MAN. James Brown had issues. He was not perfect. The film showcased some of Brown's domestic issues, such as spousal abuse and the event that lead to his arrest and felony conviction, but the film provided no insight as to how Brown grew from these experiences. Brown didn't have drug problems until late in his life, but film also steered clear of this issue. Brown also had legal problems, but given his business savvy, film should have showcased his documented acumen resolving these issues. It would have greatly helped Boseman if the script had greater depth and diversity showcasing Brown's values, such as his interest in country music, or the how Brown's personal and professional life changed dramatically in 1968 when Syd Nathan, Ben Bart, and his friend singer Little Willie John, all died; and his record label, King Records, was sold twice with two months. To show the scope of Brown career, film should have ended with a credit crawl of Brown's honors, awards, and dedications, but did not. Although not mentioned in the film, James Brown remains to this day the world's most sampled recording artist, with "Funky Drummer" itself becoming the most sampled individual piece of music. Unfortunately, instead of presenting a robust, richly informative and thoroughly exciting tribute to the "Hardest Working Man In Show Business," this film barely even "sampled" Brown's career.

Overall, acting was competent, by-the-numbers, but not spectacular. However, Dan Aykroyd was easily the most watchable person in the film, and he gave his character, Ben Bart, an identity.

Film direction by Tate Taylor is too episodic, with to many delayed flashbacks that often make the 138 minute film seem beleaguered. Film would benefit greatly if trimmed by 20 minutes or more. Film editing by Michael McCusker was sharp, but shot selection by director Taylor showcasing James Brown dancing was frequently subpar and unnecessarily repetitive.

Recommendation: This is a made-for-tv bio-pic! If you really want to know more about James Brown, watch the documentary, "Soul Survivor - The James Brown Story." Even better, buy "Star Time" the 4-CD box set that beautifully chronicles Brown's career.

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