Just like my previous soul music portrait project, MARVIN GAYE, my latest foray into classic R&B/soul artists, JAMES BROWN (Godfather of Soul), was a long time coming, and worth the wait.
** JAMES BROWN (Godfather of Soul) 16x20 inches Mixed Media Limited Edition Poster Print
Over the years, I have seen several documentaries on soul legend JAMES BROWN, and have heard his songs permeating throughout pop culture in films, commercials, and covered by so many other artists, that his songs and music have become subconsciously engrained into my life without me even realizing it. Like many classic artists who are seen more than heard, (seen as iconic without grasping why and heard, but without context to appreciate fully) JAMES BROWN is an artist who's performances elevated him to a level of greatness that musical titans such as MICHAEL JACKSON and PRINCE were inspired to study and emulate in his wake. The directness and simplicity of many of his songs is as easy to let wash over you as it is to overlook in its effectiveness, and in many ways, that is the essence of soul music: purity and simplicity. It is music driven by emotion, and grit and raw energy, like a blunt instrument bearing down hard and making such a noise as to make you sit up and take notice. JAMES BROWN always lost himself to the groove in his music and onstage during performance. It was his most powerful tool: driving his band and drawing in his audience in to make you a believer, and to make you feel the trip he was on. Driving his music home was his ability to deliver his songs with raw power and a rhythmic swagger that could move an audience in a way that few performers can. It was that energy and showmanship I wanted to capture and showcase in a portrait more than any other of his unique qualities.
Unlike my last couple projects, which were colour oriented, I decided for JAMES BROWN to return to the simplicity of black and white, with a small dash of colour for the type. I've always loved the archive black and white footage of the performer with his slicked pompadour hairstyle, classy suits, and simple band, tearing it up on theatre stages and hungry for the audience's attention and participation. The days that existed before colour film offered a certain mystique to performers of this calibre, because so much was suggested in the grain of the film and the static of the soundtrack that you can barely grasp the effect it must of had on those that were there to witness it. This portrait designed to celebrate the frenetic energy of not simply a powerful soul singer, but a completely unique and incomparable performer at the top of his game. Performance pieces especially captivate me because the act of making them is like trying to capture lightning in a bottle...but when it works out, just like a great performance or a great song, nothing can top it.