Fifty-one years ago Asbury Park was burning, Music saved the city
This weekend marks the 51st anniversary of the civil unrest in Asbury Park. The riots from the July Fourth weekend in 1970 tore a city and the state of New Jersey in half. The damage to both the infrastructure and race relations in Asbury Park was intense and overwhelming.
The breakdown was described by those on both sides of the divided railroad tracks of Asbury Park as a “ticking time bomb”, it was going to happen and the question remained, when. Well it came to fruition on the July Fourth weekend in 1970.
There was one force that kept the thread of survival alive from pure and total devastation. It was music, music saved Asbury Park.
The movie Asbury Park, Riot, Redemption, Rock and Roll depicts those times in Asbury Park in 1968 thru 1971 where music on the Jersey Shore got it’s legs and catapulted several of New Jersey’s favorite sons into Rock and Roll stardom and landed them smack in the middle of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
This is the story of Bruce Springsteen, Steve Van Zandt, Southside Johnny, Clarence Clemons, David Sancious and others. It’s the story of how there was no race barrier in music, how the respect of another’s talent took a blind eye to the color of their skin. This is also the story of the famed Asbury Park Upstage nightclub that was the birth of live music and the venue for original music that began here in New Jersey and eventually reached worldwide.
It was also the story of the unrest, riots and tension that literally boiled over on that July Fourth weekend in 1970 to a level that was never expected. It is also the story of how Asbury Park came back and how it now pays it forward to the young and upcoming musicians who finally have a place to learn about music in a place where a big part of Rock and Roll history was carved out.
I had the pleasure of narrating this fine film; Asbury Park, Riot, Redemption, Rock and Roll. The film is currently available on Netflix. Tom Jones is the director, writer and creator of the movie. It’s a powerful story with a wonderful, hopeful future. Please see the movie and help The Asbury Park Music Foundation continue its awesome work. The Foundation provides music programs to underprivileged kids. It’s a great pay it forward story
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.