"Godfather of Soul"
As a group, we decided to focus our project on the life of James Brown, all of his experiences, and everything that he has done. Because he has such a huge impact on the Augusta community, we thought that it would be a good idea for us to dig deeper into our knowledge about him and his background. From this project, we gained a lot of information on James Brown that many of us did not know prior. Based on the public's appeal and people's opinions, it really helped guide us on how we would portray our information and what exactly to present in order to provide more information about James Brown than what people may already know. We hope that this project helps our audience to develop a deeper understanding for James Brown as we did preparing this project, and we hope that the audience is impacted by the art of James Brown and the beauty of his talent that he brought throughout his life.
Who is James Brown?
James Brown is an American artist referred to as "The Godfather of Soul" and creator of funk. He emerged as a major public figure during the 1950's until his death in 2006. He is best known for his style, music, and dance.
Interview with Bobby Azar
Our group conducted an interview with Bobby Azar, James Brown's personal driver. The interview was amazing. Mr. Azar had plenty of stories to tell about his boss. You can hear it in is voice that he really appreciated, admired, and was influenced by James Brown. Mr. Azar became his driver after he was released from jail in February 1991. From that time on his life was changed. Mr. Azar met many famous people, including Isaac Hayes, Whitney Houston, Little Richard, Keith Richards, Mick Hucknall, from the group Simply Red, and George W. Bush during his first presidential election campaign, which Mr. Azar says is one of the most memorable moments while being James Browns's driver. Mr. Azar also had the privilege of being in one of James Brown's music videos "Moving On" shot in Augusta, Georgia. James Brown was a proud man and a very hard worker. After his release, James Brown got right back to work in the studios. Mr. Azar quoted James Brown in saying, "I don't need a hand out, I want a way out". He worked for everything he had. When he was sent to jail the government took everything he owned, but upon release he got everything back through hard work and dedication. Mr. Azar told us how James Brown loved his hometown of Augusta, and even though Augusta did not appreciate him at the time, that did not stop him from giving back to Augusta.
The picture above contains James Brown and a few of his band members. In our interview with Bobby Azar, he told us that Mr. Brown was a stickler for having a "tight band" as he would say. Since the band played on a three count system, knnown as funk music, instead of a four count system, it was harder to hit the notes consistently. Everytime Mr. Brown heard a missed beat or note during practice, he would motion his hand toward them to notify them that he was docking their pay. Mr. Azar said, "he would dock their pay by roughly $100".
St. Peter Baptist Church
St. Peters Baptist Church in Elko, South Carolina was Mr. Brown's father's church. Joseph Gardner Brown was a preacher there for Mr. Browns later adult years. Mr. Azar said, "any time the church was in need of new equipment, repairs, or upgrades, Mr. Brown was more than willing to help out. He enjoyed singing gospel music, playing the piano or organ, and spending time with other church goers".
1991 Christmas Party
The pictures to the side are of the formal invitation to Mr. Browns Christmas party and Mr. Azar and his wife attending. Mr. Azar said, "James Brown took pride in his appearance and wanted others around him to do the same, hence the note that it was a black tie event".
Mr. Brown was quirky about dressingly nicely and being on time. From band practice to Church's Chicken, he was wearing a suit accompanied by his signature scarf. Mr. Brown also made it a requirement for his employees or band members to dress with a button up shirt, sports coat, or, for more important events, in a tuxedo.
Mr. Azar described one of his most memorable moments with James Brown was being in one of James Brown's videos. Moving On was filmed in Augusta and Mr. Azar was asked to act briefly as one of James Brown's bodyguards. "When you put on that suit, you look like The Man", Mr. Azar recalled Brown saying to him. He can be seen on the left side of Brown wearing a suit in between 0:40-0:50 seconds into the video.