Wednesday, April 04, 2007

CNN’s James Brown Documentary Spotlights Artist’s Impact on America

CNN Pressroom - CNN Anchor Don Lemon Reveals Life of ‘The Godfather of Soul’ in Program Premiering Saturday, May 5

Over the weekend of what would have been James Brown’s 74th birthday, CNN will document the rise from poverty to prosperity and from petty criminal to musical icon of the man known by many titles: “The Godfather of Soul,” “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business” and “Soul Brother Number One” among them. CNN’s Don Lemon reports the story of the James Brown that most people never knew for CNN: Special Investigations Unit – James Brown, Say it Proud premiering on Saturday, May 5, and Sunday, May 6, at 8 p.m. and 11p.m. All times Eastern.

Through interviews with the Rev. Al Sharpton, music legends Little Richard and Bootsy Collins, bandmate Bobby Byrd and superstar Usher – as well as Brown’s family members, business manager Charles Bobbit and biographer Bruce Tucker, Lemon reveals the sensitive and complicated character behind the cultural legend. Usher, who considered Brown one of his mentors, recounts how much Brown’s personal advice meant to him .

Although Brown’s remains were recently interred in a temporary mausoleum, his family is making plans for a Graceland-like final resting place, James Brown-style. In death, as in his life, Brown’s inimitable style seems unstoppable.

Raised in a brothel and with an early life of petty crime, Brown dropped out of school in the seventh grade but had a lifelong commitment to counseling young people to stay in school. He was a strong financial booster for educational causes and inspired “Black Pride” and self-reliance in generations of music lovers and fans of his motivational “up-by-the-bootstraps” achievements.

Brown was deeply affected by the prejudice he endured as a child of the deep South and as a performer in the segregated “chitlin circuit,” where he reigned as one of the most popular acts yet was refused accommodations and was humiliated by white policemen. Brown is partially credited with keeping the peace in Boston following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., counseling his audiences to keep calm.

The documentary reveals the conflicting passions of a man who demonstrated extraordinary dedication to civil justice and political activism, yet wrestled with periods of serious self-destructive behavior including substance and spousal abuse leading to repeated clashes with the law.

Brown’s politics, like his life, were complicated. Many African-Americans were surprised when he endorsed Richard Nixon for president in 1972. He was impressed by Nixon’s message of self-reliance but also appreciated Nixon’s verbal declaration that Brown was a “national treasure” and so should not have to pay taxes. According to Frank ‘SuperFrank’ Copsidas, president of Intrigue Music, Brown’s last management agency, Brown’s continual tax problems may have been related to his taking this “promise” of tax exemption to heart.

Brown’s personal jealousies and grievances would often influence his professional decisions. He made a practice of fining band members whose behavior or costumes did not meet his exacting standards, and he feuded with bandmate Bobby Byrd when they both fell for the same woman. Brown once summarily replaced his entire band for complaining about late pay. The young and cocky Bootsy Collins and his band the Pacesetters were brought in as replacements.

“James Brown led a remarkable life for what he accomplished personally, but even more so because he impacted the times in which he lived,” said Mark Nelson, vice president and senior executive producer of CNN Productions. “His risked his success for civil rights and poor people’s issues when doing so was unpopular and dangerous. His troubles offer a warning against personal excess, but he was a living legend who remains iconic of cultural pride, self-reliance and generosity.”

The producers for this program are Kate Albright-Hanna, Kate Andrews, Nadia Kounang and Emily Probst; the executive producer for this program is Kathy Slobogin. Don Lemon anchors CNN Newsroom weekdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. with Kyra Phillips and reports breaking news for other broadcasts.

CNN Worldwide, a division of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., a Time Warner Company, is one of the world’s most respected and trusted sources for news and information. Its reach extends to nine cable and satellite television networks; one private place-based network; two radio networks; wireless devices around the world; four Web sites, including, the first major news and information Web site; CNN Pipeline,’s premium live news video service; CNN Newsource, the world’s most extensively syndicated news service; and partnerships for four television networks and two Web sites.

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