August 29 – September 1

Few popular music stars have ever given the eye—and the camera—so much to drink in as James Brown. Brown’s showmanship was, in the context of early-60s pop music, radically new: a dramatic, exactingly controlled marriage of movement and voice that somehow seemed completely, wildly spontaneous. It was an art Brown inherited from, among other sources, the gospel tradition, but it was Brown who brought it across racial and regional lines—to make it, in other words, an instrument of political and social change. And it was an art especially well-suited to the movies, through which we now have access to many of his finest, most exhilarating performances: the furious theme song of Black Caesar; his scratch-heavy, bongo-driven funk set in Soul Power; the miracle that is his 18 minutes on The T.A.M.I. Show. That last performance might be his crowning achievement, although Brown himself likely wouldn’t have agreed. A fan, he tells the crowd in Soul Power, once asked him to “play the best of James Brown.” “I can’t do that,” he told the man. “The best of James Brown is yet to come.”