*Chadwick Boseman, Nelsan Ellis, Octavia Spencer, Dan Aykroyd, Jill Scott, director Tate Taylor, producers Mick Jagger, and Brian Grazer weighed in on their favorite James Brown moment when they met in New York City at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel to talk about “Get On Up.”All were asked to recall their initial James Brown moment or favorite recording.
JILL SCOTT: I remember being on 22nd and Lehigh Avenue and someone was playing, ‘I’m Black and I’m Proud.’ I can’t remember how old l was, I’m pretty sure I was in elementary school. But I remember the guy was at the stoplight and the music was blaring. I remember something in me stood up a little bit higher. I puffed my chest out to that song. That was the first James Brown feeling that I really remember.
MICK JAGGER: Umm, that’s a good one.
NELSAN ELLIS: I will echo that. My grandpa used to play ‘Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud’ and it made me feel proud to be Black.
CHADWICK BOSEMAN: Mine is the same actually. I will always remember James being part of the soundtrack of my life. But if I had to pick one, it would be ‘I’m Black and I’m Proud.’
OCTAVIA SPENCER: You, too, Tate?
TATE TAYLOR: [Laughing], I’m not Black but I’d be proud to be Black. For me, it’s more than one song. They bring back memories. My mother was a single mom and I primarily lived with her. She loved James Brown. He was on her record player a lot and as a child it shaped me. When we started filming the movie, she brought me all her James Brown records. I had forgotten that she used to play them. They had her maiden name, her dorm room and her college on them. They said, ‘Please return to this room’ and it just made me think about her challenges and James’s challenges. It was kind of cool that she listened to his music and she never said that was the reason. All of his songs are my favorite for that reason.
MJ: Well, the whole ‘Live at the Apollo’ album was my kind of real introduction to James Brown and I loved every tune. I knew them all backyards, all the intros, the segues, the instrumental segues. What was odd though, I had never actually seen him perform but I imagined the whole thing in my head so I played his record to death. When we were prepping the movie, Chad and I played the very long track called ‘Lost Someone’—
MJ: —Where he interacts with the audience on that. That kind of brought me back to the first time ever I played [‘Lost Someone’].
CB: —I had that song on repeat. Seriously, I had that song on repeat for days, just listening to it. I would leave it on in the crib and then come back and it would still be on just because I wanted to walk in and have that playing while we were shooting this movie. ‘Lost Someone,’ there’s something about—
MJ: —There’s something about that and the way he goes through the changes, was so emotional. Also, you can hear all the audience interaction and everything about it. It’s such a great song.
BRIAN GRAZER: And for me, it all resonates with me because when I was in high school I was in a low rider car club—
MJ: I can’t imagine that [Laughs].
BG: And I would put in the 8-track and it was literally the Rolling Stones, Little Anthony and the Imperials and James Brown. And James Brown, ‘It’s a Man’s World,’ which I loved. I had the reverb sound and it would go on and on and on. So I loved that and I did love ‘I’m Black and I’m Proud.’
OS: That’s why I like these guys. For me, I guess, I’m a child of the 70s and we were a James Brown household. But what really resonate with me perhaps is the stuff of the 90s, ‘Living in America,’ and ‘Static.’ So I loved all the early stuff but what I like is that his music transcended age groups and he was able to just stay relevant. Those are my two for right now.
DAN AYKROYD: I’m a little older than the kids so we can really get down to it [Everyone in the room laughs]. It’s 1968 Montreal, Canada. The building is gone now; it was called the Esquire Show Bar. And you sat at the bar and the performers would dance along it. So when Danny Ray came out and dropped the cape on James Brown in ‘Please, Please, ‘Please,’ that was a seminal moment for myself and my six friends who squeezed into one of my friends’ mother’s mustang and all came down from Ottawa to see the show. And there was James Brown with his bolero heels like this far (inches) from our beers, dancing up and down the Esquire Show Bar. And on the little stage were the horns, the rhythm, [guitarist] Jimmy Nolan, Maceo, and everybody that was in the band then. So real early on I loved him.
Syndicated Entertainment journalist Marie Moore reports on film and TV from her New York City base. Contact her at [email protected]om.