Black History Month 2019: The Godfather of Soul

By Amy Muth, Cataloger, National Museum of African American History and Culture

Black History Month 2019: Musical Collections from the National Museum of African American History and Culture

 

 

February is Black History Month and this year the Transcription Center team at the National Museum of African American History and Culture is participating in the Smithsonian’s Year of Music! We're sharing a number of new transcription projects from our collections related to the history of African American music and musicians.

We'll be posting new projects all month long. Check out some further information on two such projects, unlike anything we've ever done before:

The first is an Epiphone guitar that was owned by James Brown. It is signed on all four sides and features messages of praise, thanks, and birthday wishes by notable people including Casey Kasem and Ozzy Osbourne. Brown was one of the most iconic figures in funk and soul music and even earned the nickname “The Godfather of Soul.” He influenced many musical artists and was well known for his social activism (1). During his 50-year career, James Brown influenced the development of several musical genres. Not only did he have seventeen singles that reached number one on the Billboard R&B charts, he also holds the record for the most singles on the Hot 100 chart that did not reach number one. Rolling Stone has cited Brown as the most sampled artist of all time (2).

Transcription of the messages and signatures on Brown's guitar will help Museum staff update their records with a list of all fo the artists that signed the guitar and will allow interested researchers to more easily locate information about this iconic artist. We hope you enjoy transcribing this object and we can’t wait to find out who else left messages for James Brown!

 

    

Image: Signed guitar and case owned by James Brown, 2002. Collection of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, 2008.7.2ab.

 

The second new project is a concert poster promoting “James Brown Live!" in Shanghai, China. At age 72, Brown performed in concert at the Yun Feng Theater in Shanghai. This is the first time that NMAAHC is posting a foreign language object to be transcribed and we hope you can help us! Please transcribe the Chinese characters as they appear on the poster, and if you're able to translate, feel free to do so in the notes field of the project pages.  

 

Image: Broadside for a James Brown concert in Shanghai, 2006. Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, 2008.7.15.

 

View all of the National Museum of African American History and Culture's objects relating to James Brown here. Stay tuned for more fun music-related content throughout the month!

 

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Sources: 

(1) Biography.com Editors. “James Brown Biography.” Biography.com, 3 May 2017. Accessed 9 January 2019.

(2) "James Brown.” Wikipedia.com. Accessed 9 January 2019.