Remembering James Brown at the Boston Garden, 1968

by Lindsay Whitacre

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, as James Brown would say, take a look at three James-related clips in our Radio Highlights/WGBH Legacy Collection.  We are remembering the anniversary this week of Brown’s legendary concert at the Boston Garden on April 5th, 1968, the day after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.  Despite fears of rioting, the city allowed Brown’s concert to go on as scheduled, and brought in WGBH to tape and broadcast it in hopes of keeping the city quiet. You’ll find video of Boston Mayor Kevin White’s brief, powerful speech to the crowd in the Garden before the concert, followed by Brown singing “That’s Life.”  There’s also an audio clip of Brown’s heartfelt message to the audience, encouraging them to go home after the concert and watch it again on television.  Finally, you can hear the one-minute radio spot as aired on the actual anniversary, in which WGBH Radio Host Al Davis, who was at the concert as a 17-year old, talks about what it felt like to be there – and then to be able to watch it on television all weekend, courtesy of WGBH.  Morning Radio host Bob Seay, then a grad student from Boston university, was deeply involved in the concert as well, working in the WGBH control room throughout the night following the concert, as the video of Brown’s performance was played over and over again. The much-feared riots never materialized,  and WGBH’s repeated broadcast of the concert is credited with helping to keep the city quiet during that tumultuous weekend, as other US cities erupted in violence.  “I remember being there all night and…feeling that what we were doing was really helping,” says Seay. “It’s just an amazing event, so much more than a concert, more than a television program.”

Remembering James Brown at the Boston Garden, 1968

James Brown Speaks to the Crowd at the Boston Garden

James Brown and Mayor Kevin White Address the Crowd at the Boston Garden

-Elizabeth Deane, WGBH Producer

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