I loved James Brown, when he passed away Dec. 25, 2006, my heart sank because I truly appreciated and enjoyed his body of work. We lost a great man, and I don’t think we truly understand how important his contribution is to the American consciousness, especially for those who dared to live out their dreams regardless of their backgrounds.

The GRAMMY Museum presents “Say It Loud: The Genius of James Brown” exhibit, now open to the public. The exhibit focuses on James Brown as the “Godfather of Soul”–blazing a trail in American music by blending gospel, pop and soul–as well as show Brown’s role as a trendsetter in both fashion and dance. The exhibit also illustrates how Brown used his music and celebrity to positively impact the Civil Rights Movement and race relations of the 1960s.

GRAMMY Museum executive director Bob Santelli says: “It’s an honor to pay tribute to his musical and cultural legacy at the GRAMMY Museum.”

Brown is known by many names; “The Godfather of Soul,” “Mr. Dynamite,” “Soul Brother No. 1” and “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business.” In 1972, President Richard Nixon made an official proclamation declaring Brown as “Soul Ambassador to the World.”

The mayor and City Council of Los Angeles declared Saturday, Sept. 17, James Brown Day in Los Angeles. City officials as well as two of his daughters, Yamma Brown and Deanna Brown Thomas were on hand to commemorate the opening of the exhibit on that day.

Born into poverty in Georgia, James Brown began performing gospel and R&B at an early age.

His first R&B hit came with the 1956 release “Please, Please, Please” with The Famous Flames. However, it was in the following decade that that Brown achieved major success, starting with 1965’s “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.” As the 1960s continued, Brown became a Black icon, known as much for increasing social activism as his legendary live performances. James Brown charted more R&B hits (116) than any other performer and is second only to Elvis Presley in Billboard Hot 100 pop hits (96).

The exhibit brings together interviews of artists and musicians who have worked with or have been influenced by Brown, sharing their perspectives on the role that he played in transforming R&B music into soul, and the influence he had on fashion and culture.

There are also great video shorts that can be viewed. The man himself explains what “soul” means to him, and visitors will be able to see actual footage of the night that set the nation ablaze after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, and how James Brown saved the city of Boston.

“The amount of artists who list James Brown as a major influence is incredible,” said Santelli.

“From his activism in the Civil Rights Movement of the ’60s, to being a major player in the Blaxploitation craze in the ’70s to his obvious contributions to Funk and Hip-Hop, it’s no wonder James Brown is one of the world’s most sampled recording artists of all-time.”

“Say It Loud: The Genius of James Brown” will be on display in the GRAMMY Museum’s Special Exhibits Gallery through Jan. 22, 2012.

The GRAMMY Museum is located at 800 W. Olympic Blvd., Suite A245, Los Angeles, Calif., 90015. With an entrance off Figueroa Street, the museum resides within the L.A. LIVE campus, at the intersection of Olympic Boulevard and Figueroa Street in downtown Los Angeles.

Gail can be reached at hollywoodbychoice_gail@yahoo.com