Michael Jackson. Prince. Usher. Chris Brown. All incredibly talented entertainers who have sold millions of records and could (or can) sing, dance and leave crowds in a frenzy. However, if not for one man in particular, it could be argued that none of these men would have had the blueprint to do the things they accomplished. That man is the Godfather of Soul, Mr. James Brown.
I, like many other millennials, first learned of James Brown through my deep appreciation for Michael Jackson. He was the hero of my hero, so logic would dictate that he also be mine as well. After learning who he was, I began seeing his influence and hearing his music everywhere. From the footwork of Michael and MC Hammer to backing music for Robin Williams, there was James filling in the gaps. That being said, when I saw that “Remembering James” would be coming to The Carnegie my wife’s birthday weekend, I thought “Cool! Soulful date night. Just what the doctor ordered for newlyweds.” However, my wife ended up catching our daughter’s cooties, so I took the little one along instead, hoping to make it a teachable moment.
As the lights dimmed and the band fired up, my excited
little one’s eyes widened. We, along with the rest of the audience, clapped as
the band did a brief medley of the Godfather’s classics before launching into
“Caldonia.” That’s when “James” took the stage and my soul meter went off the
Dedrick Weathersby, embodying the title character, took us
on a musical journey of his early hits including “I Feel Good,” “Papa’s Got a
Brand New Bag,” “Please, Please, Please” and more. With the help of Twon Pope
playing Brown’s long-time partner Bobby Byrd, Weathersby presented a behind the
scenes glimpse of James that many were unaware of. Highlights of the production
included Weathersby regularly breaking the fourth wall and his interactions
with the crowd during musical performances.
Personally, I felt that Weathersby’s portrayal of James was
second only to Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal in the biopic “Get On Up.” His
choreography was impeccable and his vocal performance was well-timed and
well-matched to the squalls and mumbles we expect. I’m grateful to the entire
production for providing a great look at one of pillars of our musical
landscape as we entered Black History Month. It seems that my little girl now
has more music to add to her Apple playlist that Daddy can now enjoy. After
all, even though it’s a man’s world, it would be nothing without a woman or a
“Remembering James” returns to the Cincinnati area on April 24 at the Aronoff Center.
Andre DuBois is the Engagement & Event Coordinator at ArtsWave. Outside of that, he is also a songwriter, producer, musician and protector of soul music and African American culture.