James Brown: Preserving The Legacy

Friday, February 20, 2009

The I.P. Stanback Museum and Planetarium will open the exhibition, James Brown: “Preserving the Legacy," on Friday, Feb. 20, 2009 at 5:30 p.m.

The I.P. Stanback Museum and Planetarium was selected to preserve the memorabilia of the legendary James Brown, the Godfather of Soul. “We are excited to have the opportunity to honor the genius of the Godfather of Soul, said Ellen Zisholtz, director of the I.P. Stanback Museum and Planetarium.

Zisholtz and other SC State staff visited Brown’s estate in Beech Island, S.C., and selected items for preservation, including costumes, original music, unpublished photographs, early cuts of vinyl recordings, awards, trophies, personal notes, letters, fan memorabilia, and souvenirs collected from around the world. The exhibition will showcase these items and will be on display Friday, February 20 through Wednesday, September 30, 2009.

The I.P. Stanback Museum and Planetarium will also welcome special guests such as Brown’s daughters Deanna Brown and Dr. Yamma Brown, son Larry Brown, and great granddaughter Chelse Woolfork. Woolfork is also the daughter of Tonya Brown Segan, granddaughter to the deceased Teddy Brown. Also in attendance will be Brown’s personal assistant of 35 years, Mrs. Ella Overton, and a former member of Brown’s band, George “Spike” Nealy. Ironically, Nealy serves as the assistant band director for the SC State Marching 101.

Brown, born in Barnwell, S.C., began performing gospel and R&B at an early age. His entry into the professional music business came at the age of 16 when he met Bobby Byrd. Brown found himself in Byrd's group The Avons, who later became The Famous Flames in 1955. Cincinnati's King Records signed the popular touring group, now with Brown’s name in front, and the band scored an immediate R&B smash with the 1956 hit, "Please, Please, Please."

In the late 1960’s, Brown became a cultural hero and was given the title, "Soul Brother Number One." As a black man of wealth, independence, and influence, he was a symbol of self-determination and triumph over racism. He took that responsibility seriously. His hit recordings of that decade have often been related to the emergence of the black artistic and Black Nationalist movements. The songs “Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud” (1968), “Don't Be a Drop-Out” (1966), and “I Don't Want Nobody to Give Me Nothin' (Open Up the Door, I'll Get It Myself)” (1969), contained direct social messages. Brown sponsored programs for underprivileged youth, spoke at high schools, invested in black businesses, performed for troops in Vietnam, and went on television to help restore a sense of calm after the April 4, 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Politicians often recruited him to help calm cities struck by civil insurrection, and avidly courted his endorsement.

Due to his fervent energy as an activist in the 1970’s, Brown became “the Godfather of Soul,” and was noted as one of the most important entertainers in popular music. His extraordinary achievements earned him the name “The Hardest-Working Man in Show Business.” Brown’s commitment, hard work, and optimism, is one reason why his daughter, Deanna Brown, believes that this exhibition is so significant, stating, “through his dedication to education, involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, and as an astronomer and collector of space memorabilia, I believe that SC State’s I.P Stanback Museum and Planetarium is the best institution to preserve my father’s legacy. I feel that the most exciting part of this exhibition will be the involvement of SC State students,” she continued.

In conjunction with the opening of the exhibition, James Brown: “Preserving the Legacy,” there will also be a night sky planetarium show arranged by Dr. Elizabeth Mayo, planetarium manager for the I.P. Stanback Museum and Planetarium, followed by a star party with telescopes on the lawn for viewing planets Venus, Saturn and various constellations, a nebula, and star clusters. On display will be the Godfather of Soul’s telescope. Following the night sky show, there will be a medley of Brown’s music arranged by James Orlick, director of the SC State Percussion Ensemble.

On Sunday, Feb. 22, at SC State’s 113th Founders’ Day, Brown will be posthumously honored with the distinguished community service award to be accepted by Deanna Brown. This award is being presented to a man who passionately served his community, and whose unique trademark style influenced other artists like Michael Jackson, Prince, MC Hammer, Mick Jagger, Snoop Dogg, Usher, and newcomers Chris Brown and Neo.

For more information about James Brown: “Preserving the Legacy” exhibition, contact Ellen Zisholtz, director, or Ingrid Owens, program manager for the I.P. Stanback Museum and Planetarium at (803)536-7174.