Jim Brown has been directing films about folk music for over 20 years and has won three Emmys. Born on June 7, 1950, Brown earned a Bachelor's of Fine Arts degree at the New York Institute of Film & Television and began directing environmental documentaries in the early '70s. He first came to public attention and won his first Emmy for The Weavers: Wasn't That a Time! in 1980, a film that covered the career of the popular folk group. "Here is one of the most joyous musical documentaries in a long time," wrote Roger Ebert, "a celebration of the music and the singers that made up the Weavers." During the early '80s, Brown collaborated with Alan Lomax on the American Patchwork series and directed a number of programs for PBS including Musical Passage (1984) and Woody Guthrie: Hard Travelin' (1984). Brown also won Emmys as a collaborator on Sesame Street (1991) and for We Shall Overcome (1988). The latter film traces the history of the Civil Rights anthem "We Shall Overcome" and was included on critics' top ten lists of best films of 1989. "This is nostalgia with a message," wrote Jeff Jarvis of People. Each of Brown's films utilize rare archival footage and interviews to offer a detailed account of folk music history. Brown embarked on his most ambitious project, American Roots Music, in the late '90s. It would require two years of 12-hour days, six- and seven-day weeks, to complete the four-part series on the development of folk, country, bluegrass, and Cajun music in the United States. "The series goes way beyond a simple montage of interviews and concert footage," writes Mark Moss of Sing Out!, "creating real drama and action as we follow the development of artists and styles." The program aired on PBS near the end of 2001. Brown went on to serve as president to the Ginger Group and Associate Professor of Film and Television at New York University Tisch School of the Arts.
by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr. biography