Martin Luther King Day is perhaps one of the better excuses for James Brown that our holiday-scarce American year provides, and so I’ll give you a live performance of “I Don’t Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing (Open Up the Door, I’ll Get It Myself)”. I suppose even seasoned soul aficionados may have somehow missed the excellent recent book The Hardest Working Man: How James Brown Saved the Soul of America, where Boston Globe writer James Sullivan recounts the chain of events around JB’s legendary Boston Garden concert shortly following MLK’s 1968 assassination. There were no riots in Boston that year, and it might be overselling to credit Brown solely for that; but many of America’s visionary Black artists of the 60s spoke out, in one way or another, against the frustration-fueled violence that leveled formerly vibrant communities in places like Detroit and Newark (cf. Sly Stone’s There’s a Riot Goin’ On, for one). In an era where “white folks focused on dogs and yoga” are driving African-Americans out of the inner city to former “sundown towns” in the suburbs, Brown’s message of self-empowerment and equality is perhaps as relevant for the larger American community as it ever has been. Plus, of course, he’s the greatest American musician of all time. So here you are.

 

 

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