When Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell and Others Held a MLK Tribute Jam
News that Martin Luther King had been shot down on the evening of April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tenn., shocked and angered the world. In some cases, the tragedy tore people apart and, in others, it brought them together.
A group of musicians, bonded together in grief, gathered a few nights later at a small venue called the Generation Club in New York City for an impromptu performance in tribute to King. Among those on hand, according to Joni Mitchell's website, were Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Buddy Guy, Al Kooper, B.B. King and, according to legend, Ted Nugent.
The evening began with a performances by Mitchell and Guy. Eventually, Hendrix made his presence known, and before long it was a full-on jam session. Though a track titled "Ezy Rider" / "MLK Jam" appeared on the 2006 Dagger Records compilation, Burning Desire, it is not the fabled late-night jam in question.
Nugent, for his part, later told UCR that he didn't take part in the April 7 gathering at the Generation Club, and that people must be confusing two different events: "I did indeed jam with B.B. King, Al Kooper, Elvin Bishop, Buddy Miles, Rick Derringer, Steve Winwood, Jimi and others in NYC around that time. Joni Mitchell was never a part of any jams I was involved in."
The same night in Boston, Mayor Kevin White and city councilman Tom Atkins feared the onset of riots in the wake of King's assassination. They called on James Brown to calm the city. His scheduled concert at the Boston Garden was, at last-minute notice, aired live over public television station WGBH in an attempt to keep people home.
The performance did the job, as Boston police reported lower than average crime for a Friday night. On stage, Brown pleaded for people to be peaceful, and pleaded for the police to ease up. Both parties obliged.
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