James Brown: Soul Survivor

10:29 pm Press Releases - WNET

Film Features Live Performances, On-The-Road And Behind-The-Scene Encounters, Rare Archival Footage And Recordings, And Interviews With The Rev. Al Sharpton, Dan Akroyd, Rapper Chuck D And Little Richard

James Brown To Receive This Year’s Kennedy Center Honors In The Performing Arts

In the 1960s, the Godfather of Soul told a rapidly changing world he’d rather die on his feet than live on his knees. Even then – especially then – all James Brown had to do was holler, and everyone got the message, a message of black pride and black power, a message that infused his music and electrified audiences the world over. Thirty years later, Brown remains one of the most charismatic and influential musical icons of his time, a hero and role model to two generations of rockers and rappers. Hit songs like “Please, Please, Please” “It’s a Man’s World” and “Sex Machine” serve to “release the scream in all of us,” according to the Rev. Al Sharpton. Through gospel, blues and funk, the man who stripped soul of its sentimentality continues to deliver the James Brown “slide” across stages everywhere.
AMERICAN MASTERS James Brown: Soul Survivor premieres Wednesday, October 29, 2003 at 9:30 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings). The film was directed and produced by Jeremy Marre for AMERICAN MASTERS, a recent Peabody Award recipient and winner of the Emmy Award for “Outstanding Primetime Non-Fiction Series” for three consecutive years.
“James Brown’s stormy private life has recently been splashed across the tabloids, but less well-known is the profound impact his life has had on American society and the development of popular music, from soul to rap,” said Marre, who also produced and directed the critically acclaimed AMERICAN MASTERS Bob Marley: Rebel Music. “He won the accolade ‘the most important black man in America.’ Now James Brown delivers, for the first time, the in-depth story of his life and music. From his early years of poverty and imprisonment he became a musical icon whose extrovert showmanship and fierce determination eclipsed all rivals.”
AMERICAN MASTERS creator and executive producer Susan Lacy says Brown’s dynamic trajectory makes his an ideal story for the award-winning series.
“The milestone of his 70th birthday is a perfect time to remind people of the vast influence he has had on both music and American culture,” she said. “This was a man who sat down with Richard Nixon, who kept rioters off the street in Boston after Martin Luther King was assassinated. All the while, he was making music that both blacks and whites could move to – together.”
The film includes previously unseen footage, live performances of numerous Brown hits, interviews with long-time bandmates, selections from Brown’s autobiography, and personal insight from the musical force of nature himself.
“It doesn’t matter how you travel through life, it’s still the same hard road,” Brown says in the film. “It doesn’t get easier as you get bigger; in some ways it gets harder. I’d been a shoe shine boy, a jail bird and had less than a seventh-grade education. That’s what drove me back then as I traveled America.”
Susan Lacy is the creator and executive producer of AMERICAN MASTERS. Jac Venza is director of cultural and arts programs at Thirteen/WNET New York.
AMERICAN MASTERS has become a cultural legacy in its own right, producing an exceptional film library that illustrates the creative journeys of our most enduring writers, musicians and visual and performing artists. Now in its 18th year, the series set the standard for documentary film profiles and has received widespread critical acclaim, winning 11 Emmys, five Peabodys, an Oscar, a Grammy, and 33 Cine Golden Eagles. With authenticity and integrity, the series enhances an appreciation of our cultural heritage and maintains the kind of in-depth, thorough and insightful explorations that viewers have come to expect from public television.
Corporate sponsorship for AMERICAN MASTERS is provided by American Century Investments. Funding is also provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Rosalind P. Walter, the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, Jack Rudin, the André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, and public television viewers.
Thirteen/WNET New York is one of the key program providers for public television, bringing such acclaimed series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, Charlie Rose, Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, Wide Angle, Stage on Screen, EGG the arts show, and Cyberchase – as well as the work of Bill Moyers – to audiences nationwide. As the flagship public broadcaster in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut metro area, Thirteen reaches millions of viewers each week, airing the best of American public television along with its own local productions such as The Ethnic Heritage Specials, The New York Walking Tours, New York Voices, Reel New York, and its MetroArts/Thirteen cable arts programming. With educational and community outreach projects that extend the impact of its television productions, Thirteen takes television “out of the box.” And as broadcast and digital media converge, Thirteen is blazing trails in the creation of Web sites, enhanced television, CD-ROMs, DVD-ROMs, educational software, and other cutting-edge media products. More information about Thirteen can be found at: www.thirteen.org.

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