“Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown” has won a Peabody Award. The film tells the James Brown story from his rural Southern childhood and his musical ascension to his civil rights impact. Produced by Mick Jagger, the film was directed by Alex Gibney, who has been very busy of late. Gibney has had three films premiere on HBO in less than a year. In addition to “Mr. Dynamite” he directed the four-hour biodoc “Sinatra: All or Nothing At All” and the film about Scientology, “Going Clear.”
Peabody winners will be presented with their awards at a gala on May 31, the first-ever red-carpet evening ceremony for the awards. (via The Hollywood Reporter.) Peabody-winner Fred Armisen is set to host the gala at Cipriani Wall Street in New York. The Peabody Awards recognize excellence in TV, radio and web storytelling.
THR says “Alex Gibney’s biography of the hardest working man in show business gets up and gets on the scene, telling a fascinating story about race and culture and politics with amazing archival clips and interviews with musicians who worked with him.”
Jagger was instrumental in making the picture happen. The Telegraph‘s David Gritten tells the story:
“The Stones have always been avid James Brown fans; Jagger admits adapting a few of his dance moves on stage, and witnessed his dynamic show in person at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre in the 1960s. So when Peter Afterman, who places music in films and handles licensing rights (including those of the Stones), told him he had secured the rights to Brown’s catalogue, Jagger was intrigued.
“‘The Brown family would be approached for permission to use a song in a movie, they’d squabble between themselves, it wouldn’t happen and they’d get no money,’ he recalls. ‘Peter told them if they left it to him, he’d run it like a business. And he asked me if I’d be interested in producing a James Brown documentary.’
“He was, and soon secured the services of director Alex Gibney (We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, Taxi to the Dark Side), widely regarded as America’s leading documentary maker. A music buff, Gibney also produced a TV documentary series, The Blues. He and Jagger set to work.”
Brown, known as the Godfather of Soul, was an electric performer. Jagger told Time that Brown had a huge influence on his own performing style. Excerpts from that interview:
Time: “Were there any of his stage moves that you, either intentionally or unintentionally, made part of your own persona?”
Jagger: “Of course. I copied all his moves. I copied everybody’s moves. I used to do [James’] slide across the stage. I couldn’t do the splits, so I didn’t even bother. Everyone did the microphone trick, where you pushed the microphone, then you put your foot on it and it comes back, and then you catch it. James probably did it best. [Soul singer] Joe Tex did it brilliantly. Prince does it really well. I used to try to do it, but in the end, it hit me in the face too many times and I gave it up. So of course I copied his moves. There was one particular one I used to do a lot, but then I gave up and moved on. You just incorporate everything into your act.”
Jagger: “When you move laterally from one side of the stage to the other, twisting your foot on one leg. I could do that one. But it’s a kind of attitude, too, not just a body move. It’s a kind of an attitude that he had on stage. You copy it. Little Richard was another contemporaneous performer who appears in this movie, because they’re from the same town. Little Richard also taught me a lot of things. It wasn’t so much moves. It’s about presence on stage in relationship to the audience.”
The Time interview also recounts details about how the superstars met: “Mick Jagger first met James Brown backstage at the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem fifty years ago, when the now-legendary British superstar was a 20-year-old music industry rookie. Singer Ronnie Spector, who introduced them, has said that Jagger was so excited to meet the funk icon that she thought he was going to have a heart attack.”