Godfather of Soul

On April 4, 1968 the infamous “shot rings out in the Memphis sky,” leaving Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. dead. As a nine year old boy living in Memphis, I was frustrated by the curfew that prevented me from riding my bike around the neighborhood that night. Since I couldn’t play outside I stayed inside and watched the television news accounts of what happened. I began, at least on some level, to understand the significance of what happened. I heard the reports of marching protestors and burning buildings.

I learned that there was unrest not only in Memphis, but there were also riots in other cities like Detroit, Washington D. C., and Chicago. After a couple of weeks went by I remember riding in the car with my family to see the burned out buildings in downtown Memphis.

Years later I learned of the concert performed in Boston by James Brown on the day following King’s assasination. City officials made arrangements for the concert to be broadcast on television and urged the black youths to stay home and watch on television rather than coming to the Boston Garden. 14,000 were expected. Only 2,000 showed up. Everybody watched.

James Brown sang and danced but he also talked to the people in the Garden and those watching at home. He is widely credited as being the man who saved Boston from being burned. I have always admired James Brown’s tremendous talent and I have always had a great deal of respect for his actions in calming Boston during a tense time.

I recently discovered a brief (2:11)clip of James Brown performing I Got The Feeling from that concert in Boston Garden on April 5, 1968.


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