'Godfather of Soul' is simply dad on his 59th birthday

May 19, 1992|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,Staff Writer

Jump back! Owwww!

Maryland's connection to the Godfather of Soul will appear on national television today when Deanna Brown of Baltimore and Yamma Brown of College Park help James Brown, their legendary dad, celebrate his 59th birthday on the Joan Rivers show.

So how was it growing up as the offspring of a man whose name is nearly synonymous with rhythm and blues? Deanna Brown, 23, laughingly recalled that hers was a household in which "Papa Don't Take No Mess!"

To this day Ms. Brown, who produces the morning show at WWIN-FM, still has a hard time thinking of her father as a superstar. "Actually, he's just dad to me," she said. "I have to separate myself from thinking of him as 'The Godfather of Soul.' "

Yes, the children grew up listening to their father's music. "Well, I had no other choice!" Deanna Brown joked. Now, as a radio producer, she is still listening to his music. "We play Dad a lot," she said.

Deanna and Yamma Brown, 19, moved with their mother from South Carolina to the Baltimore area about 14 years ago after their parents separated. Deanna and Yamma often have a hard time getting people to believe them when they mention who their famous father is.

"People don't believe us," Deanna said. Once they are convinced, she is bombarded with questions such as: "Where is he?" (Living in South Carolina.) "How is he?" (Very well, thanks.) "Do you still see him?" (As often as possible.)

James Brown has been back on the road ever since his parole in March 1991 from a work-release program. Mr. Brown was sentenced to six years, which was reduced to 26 months, after an incident involving a police chase in 1988.

He has a new video out and is currently touring the country, said Larry Fridie, a road manager for the entertainer. The Godfather of Soul will be at Wolf Trap on June 14, he said.

Deanna, who graduated from Towson State University in 1990 with a marketing degree, said she feels "privileged" to be the offspring of such a popular star.

She recalled sitting in the college library and reading -- when it really hit home who her father is.

"I looked in a black history book and I saw my name there with my father's name!" Deanna said. "I'm a part of black history," she said in a voice ringing with awe.

Prior to the television taping, she last saw her father in February when he escorted her to the Grammy Awards ceremony during which he was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. "We see each other every chance we get," she said. "Especially when he is on the East Coast."

Papa James Brown was not expecting to see his daughters or their brother Darryl when they walked onto the Joan Rivers show. "He was hysterical," his daughter said.

Sister Yamma took time off from her studies at the University of Maryland to attend the taping. She is a sophomore studying to be a veterinarian. Brother Darryl, 31, is a studio musician who lives in New Jersey. There are three more siblings spread around the country.

Deanna's famous father failed to pass down one talent to his radio producer daughter. "I don't sing," she said. "That's one thing I didn't get from my father."

But Mr. Brown, who once owned radio station WEBB in Baltimore, did pass along some other traits: Deanna plans to own her own radio stations one day. "I did get my drive and my business sense from him," she said.

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