Make it Funky! [art]

James Brown: First Monument with a Jukebox?

Before it finally was erected, the life-size bronze statue of James Brown in downtown Augusta, Georgia, weathered its share of controversies. And now that it's finally up, storm clouds have gathered once more.

That's because Marion Williams, city Commissioner and pastor of the Friendship Baptist Church, who initially whooped up public support to raise the statue, now wants to enliven it with flashing stage lights, a coin-operated jukebox, and audio narrating the life of the now-dead [12/25/2006] Godfather of Soul.

"I proposed to put some lights across it, because James Brown was an entertainer," said Williams, "and maybe get something set up where people could insert money into a machine to hear 30 seconds of one of his Top 10 songs."

We've encountered statues that talk and sing before, but they're usually of anthropomorphized animals (There's also a chatty bust of George Washington Carver at his birthplace in Diamond, Missouri.). This extra bit of audio showmanship has always been free, at the push of a button. Will people pay cash to re-animate James Brown?

James Brown statue.

"This is something that would enhance people to come even more," Williams argues. "When they come to Augusta, they'd stop by and do that," He adds that the fee will bring in money to the city, which is probably still paying off the $40,000 sticker price of the statue.

"There wasn't a whole lot of people disagreeing with it," said Williams. One of them, however, is Deke Copenhaver, Augusta's mayor. Copenhaver feels that the idea is disrespectful to Brown's family, who live just outside of the city in Beech Island, South Carolina (And who, in fairness, have proposed turning Brown's house and mausoleum there into a Graceland-style tourist attraction).

Williams dismisses those who dismiss his idea. "A couple of people thought it might be a gimmick of some kind," he said. "But James Brown was an entertainer. He's always been entertaining. I just think this kind of thing would enhance it."

According to Williams, the Augusta City Administrator is now breaking down the costs of the proposed enhancements. Despite the mayor's misgivings, it's "very, very probable that this could happen."

850 Broad St., Augusta, GA
The statue stands in the median of Hwy 28/Broad St., between 8th and 9th Sts.
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