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James Brown biopic hits home for one Miami daughter

Erick Johnson | , Gigi Tinsley | 7/24/2014, 11:37 a.m.
Legendary performer and the "Godfather of Soul" James Brown left to the world more than dance moves and music.

Her large cheekbones resemble those of her famous father. When she laughs, a wide smile similar to the one millions have seen at concert performances and television shows appears.

Her name is Jeanette Mitchell-Bellinger. She is an Allapattah resident and James Brown’s daughter.

It was no secret to many people in Miami’s Coconut Grove community that Jeanette Mitchell-Bellinger was the daughter of James Brown. She lived in “the Grove” as it is called, with her surrogate parents, Frankie and Billy Rolle. Frankie Rolle was her mother’s sister. The couple were popular and well known in their community. Many remember Billy Rolle and his jazz band. Mitchell-Bellinger has known about her father since her mother, Christine Mitchell told her during her childhood.

“Many people would say, if you’re James Brown’s daughter, how come you’re not rich?” said Mitchell-Bellinger.

That’s because the Jacksonville native has lived most of her life without the world knowing about her, while fighting to claim her birthright as the daughter of one of America’s most gifted soul legends. A series of events and long legal battles tell a fascinating tale of how Mitchell-Bellinger, a mother of four, is now the discovered heiress of the “Godfather of Soul’s” estate.

In 1983, Guy Norman, a family friend took her backstage to see her father after he performed at the Fontainebleau Hotel on Miami Beach when she was just 13. At that meeting, Brown gave her an autographed poster, which she still has today.

This Thursday she’ll be introduced to the world of the rich and famous as she joins her father’s family at the movie premiere of “The Funk Don’t Quit, Get On Up,” a biopic on Brown’s illustrious recording career.

The evening will be a star-studded one as actors, producers and Hollywood A-list celebrities grace the red carpet to celebrate the film’s debut.

But with so much mystery and curiosity about Brown’s long-lost daughter, a difficult and hard life has somehow prepared Mitchell-Bellinger to make her entrance as an heiress.

“I’m ready,” Mitchell-Bellinger said. “It’s been a longtime coming.”

AN INSTANT ATTRACTION

Mitchell-Bellinger’s mother was Christine Mitchell, a slender and strikingly attractive music lover whom Brown spotted in the crowds at a concert in Jacksonville in the 1960’s, according to family members. Brown directed bouncers to bring Mitchell backstage where the two met and began dating. According to conversations with several relatives, the two dated off and on during the course of their relationship. In 1970, Christine became pregnant with Mitchell-Bellinger.

Family and friends say that the two seemed like a perfect match. Photos show her captivating eyes. He was, of course, a charismatic soul singer with dance moves and stage performances that swept many adoring women off their feet.

At that time, Brown’s 16-year marriage with Velma Warren of Tocca, GA, was ending. In addition to Christine, Brown had numerous relationships with women in addition to his four marriages. It was rumored that he fathered many children from these relationships. But many of the claims from women seeking a piece of Brown’s multi-million dollar estate were unsubstantiated. Throughout his life, Brown dismissed most of these claims, accusing many of the women of being after his fortune.