Mousey Thompson and the James Brown Experience were there. So was Nu Era, a local group that moved and sang just like The Temptations.
It was all part of a caravan of rhythm and blues acts, that filled the corner of T St. and Florida Ave. NW with sweet soul melodies Monday afternoon, as several thousand revelers celebrated the reopening of the legendary Howard Theatre.
“This brings back the youthfulness of me,” said Thompson, the former drummer for James Brown. The band played a number of Brown’s hits and featured a lead singer who was dressed just like the Godfather of Soul. “We are trying to bring back the legacy of old music mixing it with the things of today.”
“This means so much,” said Malik Ellis, one of the principal owners of the Howard Theatre, who stood at the door of the venue and welcomed people taking the tour. “This really means that the community is coming together to open up the old theater, it means my parents, grand parents, it means my children will have a place to go to see all of the amazing artists.”
Comedian activist Dick Gregory said playing the Howard Theatre was special during segregation because unlike other cities, “This was the only place where you could work in a predominantly black areas where you can work where people lived. When you worked here you didn’t have to leave the community and get insults.”
Al Johnson, who performed at the Howard when he sang with the Unifics, said: “This is one of the great institutions not only in Washington, but the country. I played here four times and I cherished everyone of those appearances and I was looking for a way to get here. It was the ultimate place to showcase talent at the time.”
George Faison, a native of the District who was the first African American to win a Tony award on Broadway, said “to come back to my home town and to see this theater reopen after such a long time is really heart warming. Now we can all tell our children where we have come from and where we have been.”
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