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Posted: 9:21 a.m. Thursday, July 17, 2014

James Brown's daughters talk about their dad, "Get On Up" 

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Deanna Brown Thomas photo
Jennifer Brett
Deanna Brown Thomas
Dr. Yamma Brown photo
Jennifer Brett
Dr. Yamma Brown
James Brown photo
Jo Hale / Getty Images
James Brown performs at the Roundhouse as part of the BBC Electric Proms, on Oct. 27, 2006, in London, England.

By Jennifer Brett

Two of James Brown's daughters, Deanna Brown Thomas and Dr. Yamma Brown, are chief among the folks who can't wait for "Get On Up," the movie about their dad, coming out Aug. 1.

 "His life story to me is survival," Deanna Thomas, president of the James Brown Family Children Foundation and founder of the James Brown Academy of Musik Pupils, or J.A.M.P., said during an interview in Augusta on Wednesday. "Coming up in the segregated South, poor and uneducated. His musical abilities were definitely a gift from God."

Brown died of congestive heart failure in Atlanta on Christmas Day 2006 at age  73. He was born in South Carolina, but moved to Augusta when he was 6. He grew up in his great aunt's brothel, shining shoes, and singing and dancing for tips on the city's streets.

After his death a most lively memorial service was held in the Augusta arena that now bears his name. Michael Jackson, Dick Gregory and Rev. Al Sharpton were among those who came to celebrate the life of Brown, laid out  in 24-karat gold casket as musical performers rocked the 8,100-seat  James  Brown Arena, which was filled to capacity.

Talk of the movie about him began when Brown was still alive, Deanna Thomas said. Her father was sort of lukewarm about the idea.

"He wasn't all that grand about a movie because he knew Hollywood would do the good and the bad," she said.

The movie was directed by "The Help" director Tate Taylor and stars Chadwick Boseman, who played Jackie Robinson in "42," as Brown. 

"We were very pleased with Chadwick Boseman," Deanna Thomas said, noting how hard the actor worked to perfect Brown's on-stage moves.

Here's the trailer:

The movie was something of a family affair, with Brown relatives serving as consultants. Thomas' son, a SCAD-Savannah graduate, worked on the movie crew, and a cousin worked in music production for the film, she said.

"Get On Up" will be screened in advance in Augusta, on July 24, with a party planned afterward at the Augusta Museum of History, where a trove of James Brown memorabilia is on display. The trailer was played Wednesday at Paine College in Augusta, where Dr. Yamma Brown spoke at the Sixth Episcopal District  of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church's Joint Annual Conference.

"My father was an extremely humble man," Yamma Brown, an Atlanta pharmacist and vice president of the James Brown Family Children Foundation, said. "He rode around in the city. He didn't have a chauffeur. He loved Augusta. This is home. I'm so glad the 'Get On Up' premiere is coming here. We're happy to be able to celebrate this movie in dad's home because he would have wanted it no other way. Augusta is where he learned how to boogie on the streets. The world knew him as the Godfather of Soul. At the end of the day, he was my daddy."

About Jennifer Brett

Jennifer Brett writes The Buzz blog for accessAtlanta.com

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