The night James Brown saved Boston

VH1 this weekend is airing a documentary on the 40th anniversary of James Brown's concert at the Garden the day after Martin Luther King's assassination - the one then Mayor Kevin White came to realize could not be canceled - and had to be aired live on local TV (only Channel 2 put it on):

... Even in this bleakest of moments, James knows his job is to go on-stage and give the people a reason not to riot. He puts on a mesmerizing show. James Brown kept the peace in one of America's most racially inflammatory cities. And he did that just by being James Brown -- setting the stage of the Boston Garden on fire. And the city itself didn't burn. ...

WGBH page on the concert - You can listen to the entire concert and watch WGBH's own documentary on that night, "The Politics of Soul."

Via Carmen Nobel.



    Free tagging: 


    Not To Nitpick

    But I don't think you're giving Kevin White enough credit here. IIRC there were only two cities that didn't suffer serious damage, injury and even fatalities, Boston and Indianapolis. Indianapolis because Bobby Kennedy was there and spoke and helped keep the calm. Boston because of Kevin White. Mayor White kept the police from following their instincts (not a knock against the police here) and going in to quell any disturbances. He also kept idiots from cruising through to gawk at the community's grief. Those were things that would have added fuel to the fire causing it to burn out of control. Had he not done those things, I think the James Brown concert would have been irrelevent.

    Nitpick Away

    By on

    I'm giving White credit from keeping the city from all out rioting. I did not know the orders you mentioned but nobody said White does not deserve the credit.

    Didn't mean to diminish what White did

    By on

    The police weren't the only ones who wanted to try to lock down the city. White himself initially wanted to do that (along with canceling the concert); it's to his credit that he had an open mind and decided to turn 180 degrees.

    White & Rock 'n Roll

    By on

    My other favorite memory of Kevin White was when he bailed out the Rolling Stones. They were sitting in a Providence jail, after having a fight with a photographer, but scheduled for a Boston concert. Hizzoner, worried about a riot, ponied up the money to get them out and they played the concert.


    Stones and the Mayor

    By Wayne on

    I became a fan of Kevin that night. I have a lot of photos from that show including Kevin at the mike.

    If you repeat something

    By on

    If you repeat something often enough, it becomes true.

    I'm not quite sure if your

    I'm not quite sure if your comment is addressing Adam's statement about the Brown concert contributing to the calm or my statement about Kevin White deserving more credit.

    Just to cover all bases I will tell you that my opinions come from reading accounts of the time and hearing the recollections of my family. This time frame factored heavily into "Common Ground" by a guy named Lucas or Lukas and something by Thomas O'Connor. Also, I recall what my parents had to say about it after the fact. I was only 7, but later, these things were discussed. After all, in my Charlestown home, Hizzoner was "Kevin from Heaven" who married a local girl.

    Adam is correct as well. The James Brown concert was a big deal and a big part of the healing.

    Strangely, someone else who was key in all this was Barney Frank. Barney Frank, who in my eyes hasn't done anything right since, lol!