Monday, August 18, 2008


I just finished watching The Night James Brown Saved Boston, a VH1-produced documentary that is one of the three discs included in this DVD box set.
From a musical perspective, this box is a must have: you really need to see James Brown in the '60s to appreciate his power.
But whether or not you like his music (I find it hard to identify with someone's taste if they don't), this documentary is awesome. It basically centers on a concert that Mr. Brown performed in Boston right after the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The concert was scheduled before the assasination, but Boston's mayor rightfully figured that the concert could help keep things calm in the city, and he arranged to have it televised. The problem with that (other than it was unusual to televise concerts, as opposed to performances on TV shows back then) was that they couldn't get in touch with James Brown's people to ask permission, and when news got out that the concert would air, for free, on TV, people started asking for refunds.
The doc doesn't saint-ify Mr. Brown: he demanded 60 grand from the city to play, and he played hardball with the mayor over his fee. In the doc, James manager points out that they were only in fact paid 10 grand.
Money aside, it shows James Brown to be someone who wanted to do good by his community and by his country. More than that, it showed the incredible power he had as a performer and as a figurehead. I wonder if any artist in any genre has that kind of power on stage, and over an audience, as James Brown did back then. I kind of doubt it.
This is a great collection and well worth the thirty-whatever dollar price tag. The sad thing: it isn't really well publicized. I only knew about it because I check out new CD and DVD releases every week. This box set is an important historical document, and most people don't even know that it's out. So spread the word.

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