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FINALLY A BIOPIC THAT DOES BROWN'S TALENT JUSTICE

Considering his status as one of the world's most influential musicians for more than four decades it's perhaps surprising that it's taken until now, almost eight years after his death, for a biopic of James Brown to emerge.

Even apart from his music, which spanned R'n'B, Gospel, Soul and innovative Funk, and his explosive showmanship (inspiring Mick Jagger, an executive producer on the movie, Prince and Michael Jackson among countless others) his life could hardly have been more colourful. Born into a troubled, poverty-stricken household in South Carolina in 1933, Brown was sent away to his aunt's brothel in Augusta, Georgia at the age of five and, following a spell in jail for petty theft joined lifelong collaborator Bobby Byrd's Gospel Starlighters at the age of 19.

It wasn't long before his indisputable star power moved him to the front and from Please Please Please in 1956 he was a force to be reckoned with. The sheer audacity of insisting on a live album in 1962 (unheard of for an R'n'B act) gave us the great Live at the Apollo, which went on to sell more than a million copies, Brown's self-confidence extending to him financing the recording himself.

Determined to keep a strong hand on his business affairs, he broke the mould and massively increased earnings by promoting his own tours. His power and status as an artist meant that he could perform a televised concert the night following Martin Luther King's assassination in order to quell public disorder, but still visit Vietnam to perform for troops the very same year.

Certainly his private life was particularly troubled, especially in latter years when his use of crack cocaine and a car chase and shootout with police led to a jail term at the age of 55, but the heights of his music are might indeed. One of the most sampled artists in Rap and Hip-Hop, Brown's unrelenting rhythmic instincts and innovative use of horns as almost a percussive instrument ring true to this day.

There can't be a dancefloor in the world which wouldn't respond ecstatically should I Got You (I Feel Good), Cold Sweat, Get Up Offa That Thing, Papa's Got A Brand New Bag or Sex Machine come through the speakers. The music may feel primal but the skill of the arrangements and musicianship are truly of the highest order. Even as far back as the sublime horn arrangements on Live at the Apollo it's clear that Brown is one of the greats and the biopic more than does this talent justice.

Get on Up opens in cinemas on Friday.


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