As Universal’s uDiscoverMusic site reports, James Brown’s historic concert at the Boston Garden in 1968 has been remastered and restored in full for the first time and is now available for free viewing at his official YouTube channel.
The site explains that the concert, on April 5 that year, soon passed into folklore because of its importance, and the calm leadership shown by the Godfather of Soul, in a highly volatile moment in American social history. The show took place only 24 hours after the assassination of civil rights activist and figurehead Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, leading to widespread violence across the United States.
The situation was so explosive that the recently-elected young Mayor of Boston, Kevin White, considered canceling the long-arranged concert, but he was persuaded to allow it to go ahead. The show was broadcast live across the city by WGBH-TV, in the hope of encouraging Bostonians to stay at home and watch it, rather than to take to the streets. The gamble was successful, and less crime was recorded across the city than on a normal day in Boston.
The concert was the subject of a PBS documentary in 2008, The Night James Brown Saved Boston, directed by David Leaf. James Sullivan, author of The Hardest Working Man: How James Brown Saved the Soul of America, wrote that Tom Atkins, the only African-American on the Boston City Council, told the Mayor: “You can’t cancel the James Brown show because if you do that, you’re going to have 14,000 kids showing up at the Boston Garden finding out by a piece of paper stuck on the door that the show has been canceled and, if they’re not already angry and distraught over the murder of Dr. King, now they’re really going to be mad.”