7pm – James Brown Preshow | 8pm – The Night James Brown Saved Boston
On April 5, 1968 – just 24 hours after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. – James Brown was scheduled to play the Boston Garden. With tensions at an extreme pitch, Boston seemed ready to join the more than 60 other communities across the nation that were rioting. Boston Mayor Kevin White considered canceling all public events in an effort to stem potential violence, but recognizing Brown’s popularity among black and white audiences, decided that canceling his performance might do more harm than good. TV station WGBH was enlisted to broadcast Brown’s performance live, as city officials urged residents to stay at home and watch the concert in their living rooms. What unfolded before the cameras while a nation mourned and raged was as tense as anything on the street that night, with James Brown forced to broker peace between fans and security, the citizens and the police, while still keeping things super funky. And it worked.
50 years since this infamous night, Royal Stompbox, with the blessing of James Brown’s estate and the film’s director David Leaf, is proud to present this essential document of music and civil rights history in America.
James Brown has a bad reputation – his control, hostility and abuse towards his family members, lovers and band members is well documented – but on this particular night, James really did take the reigns of a volatile situation (compare to the meek, crumbling Mick Jagger of GIMME SHELTER, for example). The events of this night in April 1968 inspired James Brown to become increasingly politicized, leading to landmark tracks like “Say it Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud” and other calls to action that defined a generation.
Using actual performance footage and the personal recollections of James Brown’s band members including Fred Wesley and Pee Wee Ellis, friends like activist Reverend Al Sharpton, personal manager Charles Bobbitt, Princeton University Professor Dr. Cornel West, Boston citizens who attended the concert, politicians including former Boston Mayor Kevin White, and Newsweek’s David Gates, THE NIGHT JAMES BROWN SAVED BOSTON tells the story of the pivotal role that James Brown, and that particular concert, played in the political, social and cultural history of the country, focusing on 1968, a defining year for America. It’s the compelling story of an artist at the absolute peak of his powers using his artistry for the greater good.
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