I know most music lovers can come up with their ‘best ever’ concert, so what would be your choice? Let me lay out why I think this one may deserve consideration for such a grand title.
The concert was set in August 1963, beside the Abraham Lincoln Memorial, with two future Nobel Prize winners taking part. Martin Luther King delivered his ‘I have a dream’ speech here considered by commentators to be the greatest speech of the twentieth century. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in the following year. Most importantly, King knew all about the centrality of music to the Civil Rights movement. He closes his speech quoting from African American spirituals.
The organisers had planned a magnificent concert which included Bob Dylan singing “When the Ship Comes In” and “Only a Pawn in Their Game”. He achieved the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016.
The marchers were entertained by an amazing list of singers led by opera star Marion Anderson who started the proceedings with the spiritual, “He’s got the whole world in his hands”. This was followed in the course of the day by Joan Baez, Bobby Darin, Odetta, Bob Dylan, Lena Horne, and Peter, Paul and Mary who sang Dylan’s masterpiece “Blowin in the wind”.
Brando, Baldwin and Newman attended
Some celebrities attended raising the profile e.g. Marlon Brando, Sidney Poitier, Charlton Heston, Burt Lancaster, Harry Belafonte, Paul Newman, Diahann Carroll, Sammy Davis Jr., James Baldwin and Jackie Robinson.
At the end of this remarkable day they got a result as the President of the US, John F. Kennedy met with the leaders of the march at the White House.
The central song was, ‘How I got over’ sung by committed activist and undisputed Queen of Gospel, Mahalia Jackson. The sound quality is poor, the images are rich and her presence is captivating. Watch it now.