With the release of the new James Brown biopic “Get on Up” the public finally has a feature film that tells the life story of The Godfather of Soul. And while music lovers have been waiting a long time for the film, there’s a place where fans can go that’s been telling Brown’s story for years: the James Brown Exhibition at the Augusta Museum of History in Augusta, Georgia.
Brown was born in South Carolina but he moved to Augusta when he was just a boy, and Augusta is where he first started performing in talent contests. What would lie ahead would be a rollercoaster of a life; along with more than 100 hit records and the adulation of millions came struggles with drugs, numerous arrests, problems with the women he loved and run-ins with the tax man just to name a few of his woes.
It’s not like it has been difficult to hear the late star’s story prior to the release of “Get on Up;” lots of books are available including “The Godfather of Soul,” written by Brown himself. And at the James Brown Exhibition fans can view the very thorough full-length documentary film “Soul Survivor” that the museum shows on an endless loop. Just like the books and films that bring Brown’s story to life as vividly as his music, so do the artifacts and items of memorabilia in the James Brown Exhibition.
Some of the most interesting items on display at the museum are pieces of Brown’s clothing and stage outfits. Suits, one of James’ famous capes, boots and other items that were worn by the performer fill case after case and there is one especially funky piece on hand: the “crown” that Brown wore on stage in the ‘50s (he was, after all, the “King of Soul”.) There are photos taken at all stages of Brown’s life and career, going back to his childhood, and many are family photos that you won’t see elsewhere. Posters, tickets and records galore are on display and there are many interactive “stations” where visitors can view shorter video pieces or listen to music. And impressively, to enter the James Brown Exhibition, museum-goers will walk under a brilliantly-lit marquee that sports Brown’s name in giant letters, as if they were going in to see one of his shows. In many ways, they are.
Brown’s music has proven to be timeless and his place in R&B and rock history has long been assured. After all the (well-deserved) hoopla about “Get on Up” dissipates, the James Brown Exhibition will still be telling his story, and most uniquely so.
James Brown fans will also want to see the James Brown statue on Broad Street in the city’s downtown area. For information on all there is to see and do in Augusta, go here.
Visit the Explore Georgia website.