One of the most well-known performances of James Brown’s career took place on the 5th of April, 1968. The event took place the night after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and was nearly cancelled as local authorities feared that the event may incite further tensions and cause a riot. Ultimately the performance did go ahead and many believe that the concert in fact had the opposite effect and helped to keep the city calm. The concert was broadcast live, which was unusual at the time, in order to help keep the city calm, with the official theory being that if people were at home watching the concert then they wouldn’t be out on the street rioting.
The concert garnered much attention and was passed around by bootleg tape until 2008 when it was finally released on DVD.
Although the performance was not as long as many of Brown’s later performances would become famous for, it remains one of his most well-known. It was a moment in Brown’s career that he truly came to realise the power that he had, when an incident during the concert of young black fans attempting to rush the stage were pushed back by white police officers. There was a feeling that this may be an event that could incite riots, but the tension was alleviated when Brown took to the microphone and urged the crowd to remain calm. Brown has later reflected that he felt that in that moment he was able to speak to the entire country during a time of crisis and do his part to avoid any unnecessary violence during the civil rights movement.