I’d like to add one last note about the MLK assassination, one that brings us ever so slightly back toward our usual subject matter.

On April 5, 1968 James Brown arrived in Boston for a scheduled concert at the Boston Garden. On the first full day after the assassination, Boston — like every city in America — was understandably on edge. According to History.com,

Following a long night of riots and fires in the predominantly black Roxbury and South End sections of the city, Boston’s young mayor, Kevin White, gave serious consideration to canceling an event that some feared would bring the same kind of violence into the city’s center…. Mayor White faced a politically impossible choice: anger black Bostonians by canceling Brown’s concert over transparently racial fears, or antagonize the law-and-order crowd by simply ignoring those fears. The idea that resolved the mayor’s dilemma came from a young, African American city councilman name Tom Atkins, who proposed going on with the concert, but finding a way to mount a free, live broadcast of the show in the hopes of keeping most Bostonians at home in front of their TV sets rather than on the streets.

Atkins and White convinced public television station WGBH to carry the concert on short notice, but convincing James Brown took some doing. Due to a non-compete agreement relating to an upcoming televised concert, Brown stood to lose roughly $60,000 if his Boston show were televised. Ever the savvy businessman, James Brown made his financial needs known to Mayor White, who made the very wise decision to meet them.

The broadcast of Brown’s concert had the exact effect it was intended to, as Boston saw less crime that night than would be expected on a perfectly normal Friday in April. There was a moment, however, when it appeared that the plan might backfire. As a handful of young, male fans – most, but not all of them black – began climbing on stage mid-concert, white Boston policemen began forcefully pushing them back. Sensing the volatility of the situation, Brown urged the cops to back away from the stage, then addressed the crowd. “Wait a minute, wait a minute now WAIT!” Brown said. “Step down, now, be a gentleman…. Now I asked the police to step back, because I think I can get some respect from my own people.”

Brown successfully restored order while keeping the police away from the crowd, and continued the successful peacekeeping concert in honor of the slain Dr. King on this day in 1968.

Once the broadcast was over, WGBH turned around and started showing it again. You can see it here:

There’s also a full-length documentary on that night in Boston, herewith:

By the time you’re done absorbing all that, it’ll be time to get back to Beatle-watching.

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