The Apollo (2019) Movie Script

RALPH LAUREN: I never thought
I was in the fashion business.
If someone said,
"Are you a fashion designer?"
No, I hate fashion.
Fashion has to be desirable,
and Ralph sees that.
RALPH: I think it's important
people express who they are.
[TV static drones]
[bright tone]
[leaves rustle]
[gentle tones]
[suspenseful orchestral music]
- "Son,
"I write to you
in your 15th year.
"I am writing you
because this was the year
"you saw Eric Garner choked to
death for selling cigarettes,
"because you know now
"that Renisha McBride
was shot for seeking help,
"that John Crawford was shot
"for browsing
a department store.
"You have seen men in uniform
drive by and murder Tamir Rice,
"a child whom they were
oath-bound to protect.
"You have seen men
in the same uniforms
"pummel Marlene Pinnock,
someone's grandmother,
"on the side of a road.
"All of this is common
to black people.
"All of this
is old for black people.
"What I told you is what your
grandparents tried to tell me,
"that this is your country,
that this is your world,
"that this is your body,
"and you must find some way
to live within the all of it."
[somber piano music]
[no audible dialogue]
[no audible dialogue]
[no audible dialogue]
[somber piano music
- The Apollo
is synonymous with
what it means to be you
as black people.
It's synonymous with
what it means to be
at your highest level.
It's synonymous with
what it means
to be the you
that you would love to be.
It's synonymous with
what can you imagine
yourself doing
and doing it
beyond your imagination.
- When I think
about the Apollo,
I think about African-American
contribution to culture,
to music, to dance,
to performance,
just to history and a legacy
and to know that the Apollo
holds space for all of that.
[somber piano music
- They paved the way,
but they also paid a lot.
I don't know where
any of us would be
without all those performances
on that stage.
It's the beginning
of all of it.
- If the United States
is the big circle,
inside of that is New York.
Inside of New York,
of course, is New York City.
Inside of New York City,
of course, is Harlem.
And inside of Harlem,
is the Apollo Theater.
[energetic jazz music]
- Hi, ladies!
How you doing?
Where--where you from?
- We're from New Orleans.
- My name is Billy Mitchell,
I am the historian
here at the Apollo Theater.
I've been here off and on
for 51 years.
- Wow.
- Wow.
- I started
running errands here
when I was 15 years old.
I'm 66 now, girl.
- So you done saw some--
you done saw some people
come through here.
- Everybody.
- Yeah.
- What do you think
about the Apollo Thea--
when you hear the name
Apollo Theater,
what do you automatically--
- Music, showtime.
- "Live at the Apollo."
Well, I know it was
one of the original places
where our entertainers
could come and perform at.
- You haven't been inside?
- No!
- You want to take
a look inside?
- Yes!
- Come on.
Let's look inside.
Come on, come on,
come on in, come here.
Come on with you.
Come on with me.
Watch yourselves, guys.
We're coming over there by you.
They're rehearsing for
the production called "Ella."
- Go upstage. Go upstage,
Go upstage.
- We're just excited.
- So am I!
I love doing this more than
you love seeing it, girl.
You have no idea.
This is what I do!
Come on with me.
- You can, uh, move the music
stands first and uh,
Joe will give us the cue
to bring in the scrim.
And we're also gonna listen
to the opening sound cues.
If we're good, we should
move on to young Ella.
- One, two.
Hey, hey.
One, two.
- And let's get this other one
up over here, under here.
- Can I have young Ella
to the stage, please?
Stand by on stage
for young Ella, everybody.
- We used to go
down to the Apollo
on Amateur Night,
and there were two sisters
who were the dancingest
sisters in the world
called the Edwards Sisters.
[upbeat swing music]
When I saw those ladies dance,
I says, "No way I'm going
out there and try to dance,"
'cause they stopped the show.
And when I got out there,
somebody hollered
out in the audience,
"What is she gonna do?"
- It's November 21, 1934,
and it's Wednesday night.
It's time for the world-famous
Amateur Night at the Apollo.
Okay, Ella,
welcome to Amateur Night.
You got your dancing shoes
- [exhales deeply]
- You don't wanna dance?
Well, what are you gonna do?
- The man said,
"You're out here.
Do something."
And I remember my mother
had a record
of Miss Connee Boswell
called "Judy,"
and I went out
and I tried to sing "Judy"
like Miss Connee Boswell.
And they said,
"Ooh, that girl can sing."
And I won first prize.
- If her voice can bring
Every hope of spring
That's Judy
My Judy
If her eyes say "yes"
But you're wrong
in your guess, that's Judy
My Judy
If you hear her call
In her soft Southern drawl
"Hi, stranger"
That's danger
- Ella Fitzgerald
was part of
that first year
of Amateur Night.
She ended up singing
and forgot the words
to the song
and started to scat.
And it turned out
she was the best scatter
to ever live.
- [scatting]
- There's a legend
about a piece of wood
called the Tree of Hope.
Every performer who ever played
the Apollo Theater
touched that tree,
so that when you go up
as a rising
young amateur hopeful
and you touch that tree,
the magic
of all of that contact
goes through your bones
as it went into that tree.
It's a cutout of a piece of
wood that came out of a tree
in front of
the Lafayette Theatre,
which my father operated
with his partner, Leo Brecher,
before they moved
to 125th Street.
Performers used to hang out
on the island on 7th Avenue
hoping that my father,
Frank Schiffman,
would come out
and give them a job.
[slow jazz music]
- Frank Schiffman was one
of the most vicious competitors
ever in the theatrical scene.
By 1935, they had eliminated
all the other competition.
They were the only game
in town in Harlem
for African-American
theatrical entertainment.
- I was raised on the streets
at Lenox Avenue.
125th Street
was my playground.
[energetic jazz music]
When people talked about
the Harlem of the Cotton Club
and the Savoy,
black folks couldn't go
into these places.
I was born in 1930.
White folks
were going to these places.
People forget that Harlem
was just a wayward station
for former slaves
to try to get out
of just being lynched openly.
Racism was right there
in New York City.
- You have to understand
where America was in 1934.
We were still
a segregated country.
Music and art
provided an avenue
out of the legacy of slavery.
- When the Apollo
opened its doors in 1934,
it was one of the few
nonsegregated theaters
that provided opportunities
to people of color,
- When I was a kid,
I would go to the Apollo
and see a big band.
The Apollo was my palace.
[Duke Ellington's
"Old Man Blues"]
[upbeat jazz music]
- In the '30s, jazz was the
popular music of its moment.
It was the music that
teenagers wanted to hear,
it was the music
that adults courted to,
and it was what record labels
wanted to sell to the public.
So just think about it:
You walk into a theater,
and you see a stage
filled with
well-dressed black men
in matching suits,
shining instruments,
working together
like a machine.
[lively trumpet solo]
It was a model
of black achievement
that people relished in
and, in fact, desired
in their own lives,
and that was the power
of that big band era.
- In the Apollo's
earlier heyday,
it was the only place
that black acts
could come and perform
and then launch themselves
into a great career.
- And much of that
had to do with
Mr. Schiffman
procuring the services
of one Ralph Cooper.
[phone rings]
- Hello.
- Ralph was always
really cool.
Always wore suits
around Harlem.
Ralph always had that
show-business air about him.
- Ralph Cooper
was this showbiz genius.
He created the idea
of Amateur Night.
He was a talent scout
that would bring people in...
[Billie Holiday's
"Strange Fruit"]
Like Billie Holiday.
The reason that Billie Holiday
made her debut at the Apollo
was 'cause Ralph Cooper
saw her in a little club
and came and just touted her
on to Frank Schiffman.
- Southern trees
Bear strange
- "Strange Fruit"
was not something
that Frank Schiffman
wanted to do.
He was really terrified
to have her sing that
and begged her not to sing it.
- Black bodies swinging
In the Southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging
From the poplar trees
- Billie Holiday,
when she did "Strange Fruit,"
the label that she was on,
they didn't want
to put it on the label
because a lot of their
consumers were from the South,
and they didn't want
to offend them.
- The bulging eyes
And the twisted mouth
- She came to the Apollo
and she sung it at the Apollo
because she knew
that was a safe space.
"The people that are here
will connect with that."
And that was innovative
in its own way
because that was protest music,
and early protest music.
- Then the sudden smell
Of burning flesh
Here is a fruit
For the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather
For the wind to suck
For the sun to rot
For the tree
- Frank Schiffman kept these
copious notes on performances
and how much money he made,
and it was about control.
It was about him
controlling every element
of what happened
in that theater.
[slow piano music]
- You know,
they kept cards on us all.
Oh, there were things like
"Good voice; talks too much."
You know?
- I started at the Apollo
when I was nine.
Black bear
Black bear
Something in
the bottom of the bottle
Makes you grate 'em all
down, down, down, down
I tap-danced...
I did impressions, and I sang.
Little Leslie Uggams.
[gentle orchestral music]
They were
showing movies still.
Always a tap dancer...
[rapid rhythmic tapping]
A comedian...
- Did you all hear the one
about the guy...
that, uh...
Did I say something funny?
- And then you had the star.
- When we were dancing
And you're dangerously
near me
I get ideas
I get ideas
- And the first person
I worked with
was Louis Armstrong.
He was just a sweetheart.
And I just loved watching him.
I had my little space on stage
in the corner
where I would watch
every performance that he did.
- Lovely idea
That I'm falling in love
With you
- It was like a school.
- Somewhere there's heaven
It's where you are
Somewhere there's music
- Ella, she had an open door,
and she was always saying
to my mother and I,
"Come on in,
I want you to eat something."
There was always tons of food
in her dressing room.
- Until you will,
how still my heart
How high the moon
- Dinah Washington
had a lot of influence on me
'cause I worked with her too.
- Only
A moment ago
You sent this smile
And whispered hello
- I was kind of like
her little girl,
and she would say to me,
"I want you always
to be a lady."
I said, "Okay."
- I felt my hand
melt into your hand
- And she used to keep
$100 bills
so that when people
would come backstage,
didn't make it
or somebody needed something,
she'd have $100 bills.
- My bumpley heart
- She cared about everybody.
- Was letting me know
That this was
no commonplace story
- So I grew up watching these
wonderful, wonderful people
who were at the top
of their craft.
[organ trills]
- Welcome to
the Apollo Theater.
My name is Billy Mitchell,
but most people
call me Mr. Apollo.
So move over
a little bit more.
Some of you move down a little
bit, move down a little bit.
Excellent, watch, watch,
don't trip over it.
Come down a little more.
So we are right now
in front of
the Wall of Legends.
Now, these are photos
of all the stars
that performed at the Apollo
over and over again
to sold-out shows.
[soft piano music]
Most of these
great entertainers,
their beginnings were here
at the Apollo Theater.
- I think the challenge
that faces the Apollo
and that faces black Harlem
is, will it continue to be
a kind of living, vibrant space
of black cultural production,
of black community making,
of black expression?
Or will it be
more like a shrine
to those things in the past?
- Okay, so now to
the real focus of the meeting.
- What is the identity
of Apollo?
- What are we?
Who are we gonna be known as
to make people want to come?
But what are we to people?
- With the current
political environment
and things that
directly affect
the African-American
I think it's important for us
to be a place where we can
talk about these issues.
- The Apollo can be the place
that creates new works
that you can't see
anywhere else,
new works that are born out of,
as they say,
the African-American
cultural experience.
That's what we can be.
- So we are here
working and developing
"Between the World and Me"
by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
We're just seeing actors
for this first time
interpreting the work
of Ta-Nehisi.
- We want to
create the programming
that you're gonna be
talking about decades later.
"Between the World and Me"
is right on target.
- "Son,
"I write you in your 15th year.
"I'm writing you
because this was the year
you saw Eric Garner choked to
death for selling cigarettes."
- So the book
"Between the World and Me,"
it's letters to his son.
How do I explain
to my young black son
how to grow up
and become a man
in the age of Trayvon Martin?
He's reckoning with his own
internal turmoil
and tension, right?
But let's try that.
- "No one is held responsible.
"All our phrasing,
race relations,
"racial chasm,
racial justice,
"racial profiling,
white privilege,
"even white supremacy
"serves to obscure that racism
is a visceral experience,
"that it dislodges brains,
blocks airways, rips muscle,
"extracts organs,
cracks bones, breaks teeth.
"You must always remember
that sociology,
"the history, the economics,
the graphs, the charts,
"the regressions all land,
with great violence,
upon the body."
- Hmm.
- I wrote
"Between the World and Me"
because my friend Prince Jones
was murdered in 2000,
and both Kamilah and I
went to school with him.
We both knew him.
- "He was dressed
in his formal clothes
"as though it were
his senior prom
"and frozen
in the amber of his youth.
"His face was lean
and brown and beautiful,
"and across that face,
I saw that open, easy smile
of Prince Carmen Jones."
- In the 15 years since
the murder of Prince Jones,
so little had changed.
This was an attempt
to vent that,
to speak to that anger,
to speak to that rage,
to speak to that--that pain.
- "Our parents
resorted to the lash
"the way flagellants
in the plague years
resorted to the scourge."
- Thank you, yeah.
That's helpful.
That is helpful.
- It's important that
people who
come from the same experience
out of which the work was drawn
get a chance to see it.
The Apollo is probably rare
among those environments and
venues where that's possible.
[car horn honks]
- [singing Usher's
"Nice And Slow"]
Let me take you to
a place that's nice and quiet
- Have a seat, sit down.
Everybody sit down.
I want to speak
to you about booing.
Those of you
that are 16 and above...
you can get booed tonight.
Now, little history
about booing.
For 82 years,
people have been coming
to the Apollo Theater
to boo the amateurs.
[energetic funk music]
- Amateur Night
at the Apollo
is our weekly variety show
that's been going on
since 1934.
- [vocalizes]
- We're always taught,
you go to the theater...
and that's how you were
supposed to be, right?
But--but culturally,
that's not how--who we are.
- First, you give them
the power of the boo.
And everybody's,
at some time in their life,
wants to boo someone,
you know?
- Boo!
Get off, boom!
Sing your best
once you open your mouth,
'cause you don't have
no second chance.
- I went for the regular
Wednesday Amateur Night.
I just remember
looking out and seeing, like,
everybody booing, everybody.
And that was the best thing
that ever happened to me.
After that, I was fearless.
- I treated you
And wrong, my dear
- If you performed
on Amateur Night
and you survived,
even if you didn't win,
that was an accomplishment.
Like, Lauryn Hill
didn't do well,
but she learned a lot
from that experience
and she went on and obviously
had, you know, a great career.
- And I wonder
Who's loving you
- Hello everyone, welcome.
Welcome to the world-famous
Apollo Theater.
We have orchestra seating
straight ahead,
the mezzanine seating here.
Good evening, welcome.
Welcome to the world-famous
Apollo Theater.
Orchestra seating
straight ahead.
Good evening, welcome.
Welcome to the world-famous
Apollo Theater.
[mellow guitar music]
- What I'm gonna ask you
to do right now
for this special moment,
I want you to take the person's
hand who's sitting next to you.
Put their hand in your hand
right now.
Doesn't matter if you've
never seen this person before
in your life.
Just take their hand,
put their hand in your hand
right now.
Everybody should be holding
someone--somebody's hand.
I was a stagehand
on Amateur Night,
Ralph Cooper's show.
- Hey, how about a nice big
hand for my little band, huh?
- And this lady
who always jumps up and down
and rubs on people
and go crazy,
her name is Eva Isaac.
[old-school hip-hop beat]
She had a permanent seat
during Amateur Night.
[crowd screams]
- They put me
on the front row, like,
this is the front row
at Apollo
and I'm in the center, 108.
That my seat.
Boy, I'll tell you, I would...
Come close
to that stage,
I'll pull you,
I'ma hug the heck to you.
- I was singing to myself
out loud, so she said,
"Joe, I didn't know
you could sing."
- I said,
"You gonna sing tonight."
- Does anybody noticed how
beautiful Eva looks tonight?
[cheers and applause]
- Second half comes up.
I go out to change the mic.
And as I'm changing the mic,
Eva stands up and says,
"Ralph, let Joe sing."
- "Let Joe sing."
Well, what Eva want, Eva get.
- Ralph looks at me
and hands me the mic
and walks offstage.
So I says,
Don't you remember
You told me you love me,
- Joe come out there singing.
I jumped and people
started clapping.
Joe starting singing and
making records ever since then.
That was my man.
- Oh
Welcome to Amateur Night
- It's time for something new
just right
- Welcome to Amateur Night,
it's time, yo
- Joe Gray performed 27 years
with Amateur Night
every Wednesday.
- Whoo!
- There's not many artists
who can say
that they've hit the stage
as many times as Joe Gray.
[overlapping chatter]
- Okay, ladies and gentlemen,
welcome, welcome,
to Apollo Amateur Night
We are thrilled
to have you here,
There are many, many
legends and stars
that have come before you
that sat in these same seats,
and we are hoping that some
of you turn into that as well.
- I'm Bianca Graham.
Birds flying high
You know how I feel
Sun in the sky,
you know how I feel
- We've had some
amazing, iconic figures
come through here,
but we've also had
some neurosurgeons,
some franchise owners,
some garbagemen,
some schoolteachers.
- So many people
using their--
- Okay, thank you, sir.
- Love
- Okay, thank you.
Thank you.
- Sometimes access,
for our community,
is not always a clear line.
So when you have
a point to say,
"Oh, anyone can try it out"
and the access is very clear,
you just sign your name up
and you can get a spot.
You just better be good,
and you just better
be ready for it.
[instrumentalists warming up]
- Sometimes we just see it
week to week to week to week.
We forget, man, this person
came all the way
from backhoe Georgia
to get here
and didn't really
have money for the plane
and then got there
and then we sort of
dismissed them, you know?
"Well, you get
one time through, oh, fine.
It's gonna be all right."
Well, not really.
Okay, everybody.
So we're gonna
get started
with our rehearsal
and sound check.
I keep reminding myself
and reminding our band
and reminding the crew
how valuable this is to that
person's moment in their life.
Doesn't matter if they're
gonna turn into Gladys Knight.
In this moment,
we have to think they are.
So up first,
we have Bianca Graham.
"I Have Nothing,"
"One Night," and "How Sad."
[Whitney Houston's
"I Have Nothing"]
- I came on a Greyhound bus.
And, uh, it broke down
in Philadelphia on me.
So, uh, when I got here
to audition,
they weren't
letting anybody in.
I went home and I practiced
and I just got myself together
and decided to come back up.
My life
Take me for what I am
My friend, uh, was murdered
by the police--one of the
police officers in Cincinnati.
It's definitely for him and
our city and our community,
um, back at home.
I said
take my love
I'll never ask
For too much
We actually had a fundraising
party before we left
from Cincinnati with
all our friends and family.
I don't really need to look
very much further
I don't want to have to go
Where you don't follow,
I've come a long way
to be able to do this.
It means a lot to me.
There's nowhere to hide
But your love
I'll remember forever
Don't make me close
One more door
I don't want to hurt
Stay in my arms
If you dare
Or must I
Imagine you there
Don't walk away from me
Don't walk away from me,
Don't you dare
walk away from me
[cheers and applause]
- The genius
of the Amateur Night
is conceding the authority
to the audiences themselves.
It's almost taking it
out of the hands of the owner.
[peaceful music]
- In terms of who allowed
for that to happen,
who created that environment
for artists to be able
to be innovative,
Amateur Night, you know,
really came from Ralph Cooper.
- Ralph Cooper,
you are a legend.
You are still alive and well,
running the Apollo Theater,
and giving young blacks
an opportunity.
Where did you get your ideas?
- Well, the ideas
were Harlem-born.
Ideas were
more or less Harlem.
You know, the entertainment
is like one big tree,
and, uh, so many things
come from that one tree.
There's a lot of limbs
that go out.
And, of course, Tony,
there was always
two kinds of show business.
There was
a white show business,
and there was
a black show business.
[Eartha Kitt's "C'est Si Bon"]
- C'est si bon
De partir n'importe ou
Bras dessus, bras dessous
- My father was doing all
of the booking of the theater.
I kept looking
at the programming,
and I never saw some of the
big giants of show business:
Sidney Poitier, Eartha Kitt,
Lena Horne.
I said--I said to my father,
"Why don't you
try to book them?"
And he said,
"I'll give you the story
that the agencies give me.
"They're white acts.
"They want to play
the Persian Room,
Waldorf Astoria downtown."
I said,
"I don't believe that."
So I wrote Eartha Kitt
a letter.
And she called me up
and invited me to
come and have lunch with her.
- Hello, Dan, it's me.
The cruise is divine.
I'm in very good hands.
Yes, I got the car
and the caviar.
Before I left, she called
the William Morris Agency,
and she said, "I want to play
the Apollo Theater."
[jazz music]
- [gasps]
How sweet.
It's just divine.
- Now she goes out
and marries a white guy,
and the hate mail started
from the black community.
She was scared to death.
But here comes the date.
The theater was
jammed to the walls.
And I'm standing with Eartha
in the wings and she said,
they're here to kill me.
You'll see."
[percussive music]
She walked out on the stage.
People stood up
and applauded for ten minutes,
for ten minutes.
And what they were
saying to her was,
"We know you don't have
to come here to the Apollo.
"We know you come here
because you want to come here,
and we love you for that."
You know how important
that makes me?
I was taking care
of buying toilet paper,
and from that point on,
I brought every act that we
ever brought in to the Apollo,
every show, every act,
[Pearl Bailey's
"She's Something Spanish"]
[upbeat big band music]
- She's something Spanish,
she certainly is
How we say
send her right back to Cdiz
Because a moment
that the lady came to town
- It was in the late '50s,
early '60s.
I couldn't get
any other acts to come in
in the bad weather
of New York winters,
so I would put in
the Jewel Box Revue.
- The costumes, the antics,
the skits,
everything about it.
I mean, you know,
these are men
dressing as women.
It was just to be seen.
- There was a group that
reared its head and said,
"That undermines the value
of the black family."
Glorification of homosexuality
was a big thing in the
black community, you know that.
"If you do that show,
we're gonna
ruin your theater."
I had a lot of money
invested in that show.
- How did you
straighten it out?
- I straightened it out
for 150 bucks.
Bought 'em off,
and the show was productive
for both me and the community.
[languid jazz music]
- When I was little,
there was still a lot of
prejudices going on in Harlem.
They had a store
called Blumstein's.
African-American people
weren't allowed
to go in there.
Being a little girl, well,
"Why can't we go in there?"
you know.
There were a lot of stores
that black people
weren't allowed to go to
on 125th Street.
- "Black body is beautiful,
"that black hair
must be guarded,
"black skin must be guarded,
"our noses must be protected.
"Both, we are all
our beautiful bodies.
- Oh, that is both.
- And so feel free,
finding those moments
to connect,
to talk to one another.
- Sure, sure, sure.
- "Now, black beauty was never
celebrated in the movies,
"in television,
or in textbooks.
"Everyone in any import,
from Jesus
"to George Washington,
was white.
"That's why your grandparents
"banned Tarzan and Lone Ranger
toys with white faces
"from the house.
"They were rebelling
against the history
"that spoke of black people
only as sentimental firsts:
"first black general,
first black mayor,
"a category
of trivial pursuits.
"Serious history
was in the West,
"and the West was white.
Everything that was white
- "Our history, weaponized.
"They had their champion.
Somewhere, we must have ours.
"But then I'd read writers
"central to the canon
of our history.
"From then, I knew that
Mansa Musa of Mali was black
"and Shabaka of Egypt
was black
"and Yaa Asantewaa
was black, black, black,
black, black, black."
- Yes!
[James Brown's "Out of Sight"]
- Got your
high-heeled sneakers on
[audience screams]
And your slip-in mules
Got your
high-heeled sneakers on
And your slip-in mules
You're all right
You know
you're out of sight
- When James Brown
came to Harlem, it was--
everybody was there.
- He loved the community.
And we would have everything
from kids who were cutting
school to see James Brown
to doctors and lawyers,
people of all walks of life
that represented Harlem.
[James Brown's
"Let Yourself Go"]
[lively soul music]
James Brown became
synonymous with the Apollo
after his first
"Live at the Apollo" album.
He knew that if he could
capture the energy
from the Apollo audience,
it was gonna make
for something very special,
and he was absolutely right.
- Hey, hey
One time, I feel all right
Let me hear!
Two times
Hey, hey,
I feel all right
Uh, uh
- The album was
hugely successful.
I mean, it was on the charts
for, like, 1 1/2 years.
It certainly
was the beginning
of James crossing over
into mainstream acceptance.
- I feel all right
Hit it!
uh, uh, uh, uh
You got it for yourself,
come on!
Hey, hey, I feel all right
One time!
Now you got it, put it on!
- At that time,
the minimum wage
was a dollar an hour,
so if I wanted
to go to a dance
or go to the Apollo,
we had to sneak in.
One of us would pay to get in,
and then they would
open the fire escape door.
Then--then the rest of us
would come in.
This was regular.
- The day that
the welfare checks came out
was a very good day
to open up an expensive show
because people had
the money available,
and we used to look at that
welfare check and say,
"Oh, that's the day
I want to open this show."
- The Apollo Theater proudly
presents the Motortown Revue!
[frenetic horn music]
- The first show
I booked with Motown
included Smokey Robinson
and the Miracles,
Diana Ross and the Supremes,
Martha and the Vandellas,
The Temptations,
The Four Tops
with Stevie Wonder.
That was the show.
- Right about here,
ladies and gentlemen,
like to introduce to you
a very outstanding young man,
a young man that's more or less
considered being
a genius of our time,
and he happens to be
only 12 years old.
Let try to now
make him feel happy,
so meet and greet the
12-year-old genius himself,
Little Stevie Wonder!
- When the Motown Revue
came to the Apollo,
the party was on.
- Everybody say, "Yeah!"
all: Yeah!
- Say, "Yeah!"
all: Yeah!
- Say, "Yeah!"
all: Yeah!
- Yeah!
all: Yeah!
- Yeah, yeah, yeah
[Stevie Wonder's "Fingertips"]
[raucous soul
and harmonica music]
Yeah, just
a little bit of sou-ou-oul
Yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah
Clap your hands
just a little bit louder
Clap your hands
just a little bit louder
[upbeat harmonica solo]
- That was done live
at the Apollo,
and that's how the world
got to know about
Little Stevie Wonder.
- The fabulous Supremes!
How about it, yeah?
[upbeat band music]
- We walked onstage.
Thank you.
We started singing
our little cute song.
We had these little cute
dresses on, short dresses.
We were so frightened
because the Apollo audiences
were the toughest audience.
And we said,
"Well, suppose they boo us?"
Stop hurting me
- Hurting me
- Hurting me
- Now, don't you
think you're, oh
And we went into the song
and, I mean,
all of us were
really frightened.
We kept looking at each other.
all: Count
the times you've cried
You know how many
times I've cried
- But, uh, by the time
we finished our second song,
they were applauding us,
and we knew that
we had been accepted.
- I don't remember
seeing anyone
in the audience whatsoever.
I never looked at the audience.
I knew the back wall.
I knew every mark
on the back wall.
I don't want you, oh, no
But I need you
Don't want to kiss you
But I need you
First time The Miracles and I
played there,
Ray Charles was the headliner,
and we did not have
formal arrangements.
You really got a hold on me
And it's all right
The manager at the Apollo at
the time, he went crazy on us.
We didn't know
we had to have that,
so he's just raising hell.
Baby, I love you
And then
here comes Ray Charles.
He said, "Do any of you
know how to play your songs?"
So I knew how
to play them on piano,
so he had me to come sit down.
I was a nervous wreck.
- Okay, well,
everything's cool, baby.
- And when he heard me play
it one time, he took it over.
"Okay, saxophones,
"you write down
ba-da-da-da right here
and trumpets, you go ahead
and put that down there."
Just did a whole arrangement
to both of our songs
right off the top of his head
that morning.
[Ray Charles'
"Hallelujah, I Love Her So"]
- Let me tell you
about a girl I know
She is my baby,
and she lives next door
Every morning
'fore the sun comes up
She bring my coffee
in my favorite cup
That's why I know now
Whoa, I know
I just love her so
- These artists who weren't
necessary literate musicians
who maybe got a record deal
and a hit song
and need to
take it on the road,
how do you acquire
those skills?
You hang out backstage.
- Oh
Sometimes I get
a good feeling, yeah
all: Yeah
I get a feeling
that I never
Never, never, never,
had before, no, no
- The Apollo was
more like a university.
- It was like going to school
when Gladys and I
played the Apollo Theater.
I learned how to be gracious
to the audience.
- Something's
got a hold on me, yeah
Oh, it must be love
- Backstage was hectic.
You could smell the makeup
and the perfume,
and people were constantly
looking for an iron.
- I've got a feeling,
I feel so strange
- The Apollo had
a very unique ranking system.
When you first started there,
your dressing room
was up on eight.
You had to work your way down.
- Any artist that would
come close to my room
as they're going down
the stairs to do their show,
I said, "After you finish,
can we play some cards?"
And every time I played,
I lost my money.
- It must be love
- When artists would
come offstage,
you wouldn't go and change.
But if you did go
and change your clothes,
you would change them quickly
and the Apollo
had lots of steps,
so you run back down
and catch the next act,
because if they
did anything new,
you wanted to check it out
and see how well it was
accepted by the audience.
And if so, then you might go
back and try to change it
and put it into your act.
- Everybody
wanted to be better
than the next group
following them.
Everybody was close.
Competitive as hell,
but close like a family.
[upbeat jazz music]
[rhythmic tapping]
- You can't mention the Apollo
without dance,
that voices music.
I'm talking
all types of dance...
[rhythmic tapping]
Honi Coles,
Sammy Davis, Jr.,
and Gregory Hines.
Of course, Sandman Sims.
I studied them.
I was taught by all of them.
[rapid rhythmic tapping]
From The Temptations
to Gladys Knight and the Pips,
Cholly Atkins was
like a dancer
who choreographed
all of that stuff.
Those four and five brothers
who was stepping.
[The Temptations' "My Girl"]
- I've got sunshine
On a cloudy day
When it's cold outside
I've got the month of May
- That was a very
deliberate move
to have the feared black man
in an Italian suit
performing disciplined steps.
- My girl
- We had Dr. Kings.
We had the orators.
We know that people were
making those statements
with words.
But on the level of style,
they could achieve
the same thing
and get white people
to soften their stance
against, you know,
black freedom.
[The Isley Brothers'
"Twist & Shout"]
- Shake it up baby, now
- Shake it up, baby
- Twist and shout
- Twist and shout
- Come on baby, now
- Come on, baby
- In our teenage years,
this new kind of music started
coming over to England.
We'd been sort of brought up
on this sort of white music,
which was a little bit square.
Suddenly there was
this really hip stuff,
and it just connected.
We just fell in love with it.
We wanted to sing like them.
We wanted to write like that
and perform like that.
- Well, shake it up,
baby, now
Shake it up, baby
- Twist and shout
Twist and shout
- We then brought it
into what we did,
and we were
introducing this music
back to the white audience
who didn't know about it,
particularly in America.
Work it on out
- You know
you look so good
Look so good
- So when we first
came to New York,
the Apollo was the first place
we wanted to go,
and instead
we were warned off.
"No, you can't go up there.
"It's, like--
it's too dangerous, you know.
It's too crazy.
You can't go up there."
And we didn't
on that trip.
You know, the early
Beatle trip, we didn't go.
It was only much later
when we went into the Apollo.
- When you
Through a storm
Hold your head
Up high
And don't
Be afraid
As a black woman performing,
traveling around the country
and all that jazz,
it was hard as heck.
We would have to, of course,
not go through
the restaurants,
not use the bathrooms,
not stay in the hotels.
We slept sometimes
in the station wagon.
There's a
- We'd be on the highway
and go into a restaurant
and, you know,
you'd sit there for an hour
before somebody
would come and say,
"We wish you'd leave."
[sorrowful ballad]
- Of a lark
Walk on
I know I was singing better
than any of those white girls
staying in the real hotels,
going to the restaurants,
and getting paid much,
much more than we were.
Through the rain
Though your dreams
Be tossed
And blown
Not because
we weren't worth it,
but we weren't allowed
to be worth it.
[slow piano-driven jazz]
- Imagine the feeling:
You're driving up
in your tour bus
and you're in Harlem
and you're going down
125th Street
and you pull up in front
of the Apollo Theater.
The relief,
the joy to be home.
- It was always our community
welcoming home
its great artists.
- Hi!
[funky soul music]
Welcome to the Apollo.
It's a special evening.
We want you to sit back,
and loan your souls to us
for a few minutes.
I promise you, we're gonna
give 'em right back to you.
All right?
I also promise you,
as you've heard before,
before you leave here,
you will have
enjoyed this show
as much any that you've had
an occasion to see.
All right?
What you want
Baby, I got it
What you need
You know I got it
All I'm asking
Is for a little respect
when you get home
I need it,
yes, I do
Many years ago, oh, my God,
the Apollo Theater was among
the first three, four
engagements of my career.
I was about 17 years old.
Back in that day,
I did four shows a day.
Sometimes we did five
on the weekend.
[Jr. Walker & The All Stars'
"Do the Boomerang"]
- We used to do here
five shows a day.
- 29 shows a week.
- The first day
we performed at the Apollo--
- [laughs]
Don't tell that story.
- No, you tell it.
- We sound so dumb.
- After we did the first show,
I went upstairs
to our dressing room,
which we dressed at
the last dressing room up top.
And I packed my clothes, man.
We were going out the door
and Spain told us--
the doorman in the back--
- We said, "See, y'all!"
- "Where do y'all think
y'all going?"
We'd done our show,
and we were getting ready
to go back to our hotel.
They said,
"You go back upstairs.
You got four more shows."
- To do!
We said, "What?"
- "Four shows?"
- "Four more shows?"
- We were in the theater
from 11:00 that morning
until maybe 12:00 at night.
- The first time
The Miracles and I
ever played at the Apollo,
we were just kids, man.
I'm only 17.
Mr. Schiffman called Barry
and told him
he wanted his money back.
He wasn't even gonna
pay us any money.
We couldn't even
get out of the hotel
with the money
he was paying us.
- Mr. Schiffman,
you didn't pay me enough!
- Step to the right, now
Do the Boomerang, girl
- I can think back
how poor my family was
in 1932 and '33
and '34 and '35,
'36, '37.
'38, '39, '40, '41, '42, '43.
We were poor,
- Comedians
are always necessary
because we're the ones
who tell you the truth.
- Figure this out for a case.
Can you believe I have
two cops in Chicago
suing me for
kicking them and biting them
while they was trying to
throw me in front of a train?
- If somebody said
to me tomorrow,
"You're going to the Apollo,"
I'd tremble.
Yeah, that was frightening,
'cause of--
and then the
overwhelming reaction.
The laughs, this--
the theater shakes.
- Richard Pryor,
Redd Foxx,
Moms Mabley,
"Pigmeat" Markham:
They were groundbreaking
in the fact that
they didn't try
to be mainstream.
They kept it, you know,
for lack of a better word,
- If you ever get arrested,
you understand
what they think of niggers.
I mean, they just
shoot niggers
accidentally all the time.
- I know, brother.
- And you can't shoot a nigger
accidentally that much.
[imitates white person]
"My gun just fell out
and just, uh..."
"Just went crazy,
shot him six times."
- What the fuck is up
with the police?
My God!
I'm scared.
I ain't getting rid of no guns.
Fuck that shit!
And I had a cop
pull me over the other day.
Scared me so bad,
made me think
I stole my own car!
"Get out the car.
You stole this car!"
I'm like, "Damn, maybe I did!"
"Oh, Lord, I done stole a car!"
- You still a black man,
you still got to deal with it,
so we will continue
to be making jokes
out of struggle.
[car horn honks]
[soft piano music]
[siren whoops]
- I think we've always
had moments like that.
When you're at that point
of innocence in your life
and when things
are normalized in your world,
how do you register fear?
- I mean, as a black man,
you're born
into this world with PTSD.
- [chuckling]
- I mean,
the first time a cop
put a gun in my face,
I was nine years old.
- Mm.
- Mm.
- And I wasn't, like,
Shaquille O'Neal size.
I was an average nine-year-old,
but that was PTSD.
You know, any time
they kick down the door
to arrest my uncle, that's--
you know, that's PTSD, man.
You know what I'm saying?
So we're born
into this world
at a disadvantage, of course.
- We're haunted...
- Mm-hmm.
- By these experiences, and
we tend to be isolated in them.
As a community, we have always
lived out of spite.
- Mm.
- You know,
in spite of the circumstances,
we found the joy or the humor
or the--the freedom of truth.
[soft piano music]
- "Think of your mother,
who had no father,
"and your grandmother, who was
abandoned by her father,
"and your grandfather, who was
left behind by his father,
"and think of how
Prince's daughter
"was now drafted
into those solemn ranks,
"deprived of her birthright,
"that vessel
which was her father
"which brimmed with
25 years of love.
"I held you,
"and a great fear,
"wide as all our
American generations,
took me."
I think our destination is,
like, pure explosion,
and then the next piece
is literally the fog,
and we're just trying
to see our way through it.
If we're flashing back
and forth in time,
so it's like Eric Garner,
Tray--and like,
it's those newsreel
and headlines,
and it's just
bam, bam, bam, bam.
It should feel like
broken glass.
[relentlessly chaotic drumming]
- The man believes
that he can kill him.
He's a lieutenant.
What it mean?
I mean, even if
the boy was in the wrong,
he's not
supposed to shoot him.
- He has an
outstanding record.
He has received 20 citations
in this department.
I would say I didn't think
the lieutenant,
under the circumstances,
had any other alternative.
[disjointed jazz music]
- That kid,
that kid James Powell
who was shot down
in cold blood the other day--
and it was murder--
was my son and your son
and the son of every
black mother and father
in this country.
We must demand--
demand, my brothers,
that this lieutenant, Gilligan,
be promptly suspended
and arrested for murder!
And this should be done
- In 1964,
when the riots started,
we made up signs.
And the one black store
that was near us,
where, you know,
you go down the little steps
to go down into his store,
you know.
And we had told him,
"Put a sign up there,
'Black Owned,'
"because we gonna
fix these people
"and they're gonna
burn Harlem up,
burn, burn, burn."
[sirens wailing]
- Stores were being broken.
Windows were being shattered.
At the height of the problem,
there was a ring of people
around the front door
of the Apollo protecting it.
I didn't lose a pane of glass.
[crowd chanting]
- Well, the Harlem riots
actually shouldn't
surprise anyone.
Our people are still
the victims of brutality,
and most of them are being
brutalized by the police.
It's surprising to me
that the explosion,
the racial explosion,
hasn't gotten farther out
of hand than it actually has.
And it's not a reflection
of the ability
of the New York Police
to contain
the negroes in Harlem.
It's actually a reflection
of the ability
of the negroes in Harlem
to hold or exercise restraint
in the face most
severe form of brutality.
We don't see
any American Dream.
We've experienced
only the American nightmare.
- Hmm.
[crowd clamors]
- We haven't benefitted
from America's democracy.
We've only suffered
from America's hypocrisy.
And the generation that's
coming up now can see it
and are not afraid to say it.
If you're going to jail,
so what?
If you're black,
you were born in jail.
- Mm.
- "Black," that's that black.
You know what I mean?
You were born in jail.
- "Black."
- Denzel nailed it.
- I thought it was Denzel
at first.
I was like, "Is it?"
- We need a New Age Malcolm,
We need another Malcolm
right now.
- This is the New Age Malcolm.
Teaching this to young people
in a way that they get it,
I feel like is radical
as fuck 'cause it's free.
- You gotta read it, though.
- Yeah, but it's
a starting point, though.
It's a freedom.
- I would agree to say that
we need something that is--
not saying books
aren't tangible, but--
- Visceral.
- Exactly.
- "Prince had been driving
to see his fiance.
"He was killed
yards from her home.
"And the only witness
to the killing of Prince Jones
"was the killer himself.
"He was charged with nothing.
"He was punished by no one.
He was returned to his work."
[Jimmy Smith's
"T'ain't No Use]
[languid organ music]
- Stick your hands up.
Let's go.
Come on, right this way.
[fire roars]
- I guess I'm really upset
about people
overlooking the city,
overlooking Harlem.
But my fight has just started.
My fight now is for
the black America
become American.
- Uh!
With your bad self
Say it louder!
I'm black and I'm proud!
- Say it louder!
I'm black and I'm proud!
- Yeah!
Some people say...
- We had had enough.
That hit us like whoo!
Hit us hard.
- Black power
means black dignity.
Just as surely as
you're proud to be white,
we're proud to be black.
Black is beautiful, baby.
It's pretty.
- Hey, white man.
Look at me.
Can't see me, huh?
Well, I'm gonna
make you see me,
because black is beautiful,
- I am your teacher.
You are a negro.
- No!
- What are you?
- I'm black and beautiful.
- What's your nationality?
- My nationality
is Afro-American.
- It was at the Apollo
in which James Brown
got onstage
and rally-cried
to the community,
"I'm black and I'm proud."
That wasn't just a performance.
That was an opportunity
to really be in dialogue
about what was happening
and how we needed
to continually embrace
our own identity.
I'm black and I'm proud!
Say it louder!
I'm black and I'm proud!
- Ow!
- James Brown, he just
encapsulates everything
that black America
was looking for at that time.
- He got rid of that hairdo
and grew an Afro.
- I actually remember in 1968,
I went to my parents
and I said,
"I'd like to grow a natural."
It was a conversation
you had to have
because it was seen as
a radical militant act
at that time,
even in the black community.
- Did you hear what I said?
I'm a preacher.
Black power!
Look here
there's one more thing
I got to say right here
- I stand before you today
as a candidate
for the Democratic nomination
for the presidency of
the United States of America.
[Marvin Gaye's
"What's Going On?"]
I am not the candidate
of black America,
although I am black and proud.
- Mother, mother
There's too many
of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There's far too many
of you dying
- If we are fighting for
greater freedoms, for access,
and then that access happens,
what happens
to the black institutions
that used to be
the only place you could go?
They began to decline,
as did
the general neighborhood
in which these institutions
are situated.
- You know
we've got to find a way
To bring some
loving here today, oh
- The mainstream economy
had moved to the suburbs.
And all that
we had left was
street hustle.
- Talk to me
- Sister
- So you can see
- Sister
- The state of the union
is not good.
Millions of Americans
are out of work.
Recession and inflation
are eroding the money
of millions more.
Prices are too high,
and sales are too slow.
- [vocalizing]
- I'll tell you what happened.
The Apollo had 1,683 seats.
The Felt Forum
had 4,600 seats.
1,683 seats
cannot survive.
The industry has outgrown us.
- Home
Is where the heart is
When I spread my wings
and flew away
Spread my wings
and flew away
I left my heart with you
- Whether my feet
Are walking
- Walking, walking
- Gladys Knight, the
first time I ever played her,
I paid her $800
for she and The Pips
for 31 shows.
The last time I played her,
I paid her $80,000
for 16 shows.
- And when I
spread my wings
- Spread my wings
- And flew away
- Flew away
- I left my heart with you
- I left my heart with you
- And when I
spread my wings
- Spread my wings
- And flew away
- Flew away
- I left my heart with you
It got to be that way.
Hey, if we gonna do all
these shows, you got to pay.
- Right.
- 'Cause somebody
was making the money.
Home is where the heart is
Not the sight
of my eyes kept you
- My partner was a fellow
by the name of Walter Brecher.
He took care of the money.
He said to me, "Bobby,
we're having trouble
making this work financially."
[slow piano music]
- The Apollo,
it gave pride to our people.
But if there was no Apollo,
there wouldn't be a place for
African-American communities
to express
their artistic visions.
We can't see those just
slip beneath the waves
as if we weren't here.
- Business began
to fall off,
and the Apollo
went into bankruptcy.
And they
closed the theater down.
[Kenny Burrell
and Grover Washington, Jr.'s
"Asphalt Canyon Blues"]
[slow jazz music]
Percy Sutton, who was
a local leader in Harlem,
very well-known,
he had been
a civil rights attorney.
He had represented Malcolm X.
He purchased the Apollo
out of bankruptcy.
- The Apollo had been dark
for some time,
and my grandfather
had this notion
to buy the Apollo Theater.
He saw the Apollo Theater
as a beacon and a spark
that could ignite a
revitalization of 125th Street.
- Percy Sutton
called me up to his office,
and he had this idea
to restore and to bring back
the Apollo Theater.
And he said, "I would like you
to work with me on it."
[suspenseful orchestral music]
[power tool whirs]
- Bob, what kind of tickets
are you buying?
- I'm buying Tito Puente.
- He's buying Tito Puente
from the temporary box office
at the Apollo Theater.
Pretty soon, you'll
have your new box office.
- I remember when it reopened,
and I remember
the way the place looked.
It was just so special to all
of us, you know what I mean?
It was like,
wow, we have the Apollo back,
and look at it now.
You could feel
the vibration in the street.
We were happy to have it back.
- That building
could not come down
because Harlem is the Apollo,
and the Apollo is Harlem.
[Kool & The Gang's
"Steppin' Out"]
[upbeat disco music]
- Every day,
you find a way
To bring a smile
to my face
All these things
you do for me
That's why we're moving on
Steppin' out
- The grand reopening,
it was a kind of
a magical night.
Harlem was so excited
for this.
Everyone came out.
- We're just delighted
to see this sense of joy
return to Harlem.
- Having gone through
the journey of the renovation
and seeing
that grand chandelier
that's in the center
of the house,
seeing that being put up
and now seeing that, you know,
on the opening night,
that was amazing.
- I want you to get
a little bit of this.
[cheers and applause]
Sugar pie, honey bunch
Come on!
You know that I love--
Let me hear everybody
this time!
Can't help myself
- There it is!
I love you and nobody else
In and out my life
- In and out my life
- You come and you go
- Come and you go
- Leaving
your picture behind
- Ooh
- I've kissed it
a thousand times
- Ooh
- World is spinning,
I feel nothing
Burning sweet, away from me
But it's in the air
Everywhere, ooh
[cheers and applause]
- "It's Showtime
at the Apollo"!
Tonight, the best
of cutting-edge music.
- Percy Sutton, he pitched
this idea of doing a show.
It was definitely a way
to highlight and feature
R&B, hip-hop, rap.
- If you're a misogynist
Then you probably
cannot get with this
If you sit with this
we'll leave no witnesses
See, nobody can
touch what Jah bless
And I mean this
So I be like Osiris
Better yet, I'm Isis
If you talking females
You should say
that I'm the nicest
- A lot of people that
heard about the Apollo,
now they can see it.
All the rap acts
and the hip-hop acts,
they weren't getting
on "The Tonight Show."
- Ba-da-ba, ba-da-ba,
ba-da-ba, ba-da-ba
- Watching the Apollo,
that was a religious thing.
It made people feel like,
"Hey, this could be you."
- B-b-b-bounce,
baby, bounce
Only one thing counts
- Uh!
- And I'm here to announce
The flex, the X,
when the wood is erect
And to the Mecca Audio crew,
'nuff respect
- I don't think I'd be
a writer without hip-hop.
These guys are
the first people
who showed me
that words were beautiful
and I could feel it,
I--I--I--I could imagine it.
In a way, these guys
have moved words around.
And then there's the beat,
You know,
there's a drum,
you know, which is in hip-hop,
which, you know,
speaks to something deep
and cultural and ancestral.
- So what you want, money?
- Pump it up, ha!
- So what you want, money?
- Pump it up, ha!
- Hey,
so what you want, money?
Hip-hop brought our expression,
our culture,
and just everything that
we were about to the world.
I would go to school,
and we would battle.
So I would go, uh,
like a--
[simple beatboxing]
And I had different sounds
that I would use, so I'll...
[quick beatboxing]
And then I'll add
other things to it.
[complex beatboxing]
- Kick up the fucking drums!
[Public Enemy's
"Can't Truss It"]
- All right, all right.
- Come on, come on!
- Penalty for the
black people's damage
in the United States of Death.
Kick up the drums!
Pump it up, here I come,
here I come, y'all
- One of the things
that the hip-hop revolution
provided the music industry
is, we began to have
young black men and women
address the power structures
of the United States
in very direct
and explicit terms.
- Lemme year you say
fight the power!
Come on, New York!
Pump it up, come on!
Fight the power!
Lemme hear you say
fight the power!
Check it, pump it up,
come on!
- Every week,
we were putting on shows
and it was selling out.
It still was just
barely covering it.
The big problem
is the 1,500 seats.
It just isn't enough,
and, eventually, it just
became too much of a burden.
- The rhyme designed
to fill your mind
- I've been losing an average
of $2 million a year
since I've been operating
the Apollo Theater.
[Dizzy Gillespie's
"Duke's Last Soliloquy"]
[morose trumpet music]
- Mr. Sutton would tell me
how difficult it had been,
that the business model
just couldn't work
as a commercial establishment.
It really,
from a business standpoint,
was not, um, viable.
He made a deal
with the state,
and the state took it over
and that's when
the Apollo Theater Foundation,
a not-for-profit, was formed
in order to position ourselves
for sustainability.
- Because of that flip,
we were able to put it on
a stable financial basis
as a legitimate force
in the cultural institution
and venue space
here in New York City.
[Pharrell William's "Happy"]
- It might seem crazy,
what I'm about to say
[upbeat pop music]
Sunshine, she's here,
you can take a break
I'm a hot air balloon
that can go to space
With the air
like I don't care
Baby, by the way
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel
like a room without a roof
- When you think
about the music,
even the songs that we sing
in our own private spaces
are so beautiful
and speak to something
so human
that even the people who
hold you underneath their boot
can't help but sing along.
[Aretha Franklin's
"Rock Steady"]
[funky pop song]
- Rock steady, baby
That's what I feel, now
Let's call this song
exactly what it is
Step and move your hips
With a feeling
from side to side
Sit yourself down
in your car and take a ride
And while you're moving,
rock steady
Rock steady, baby
Let's call this song
exactly what it is
- What it is, what it is,
what it is
- It's a funky
and low-down feeling
Move your hips
from left to right
What it is,
is I might be doing
This funky dance all night
- Wave your hands
up in the air
- You just know that when
one of these icons passes,
people will come
to the Apollo
and that you know
you'll be able to be there
with others that
are also grieving
for the loss of someone that
was important in our community.
- I think that it has a lot to
do with the marquee as well
and being under that banner
knowing that these people
had been here.
You were sharing a little bit
of their history.
- I lost someone
[somber soul music]
My love
Who's greater
than the stars
- James Brown performed
on the Apollo stage
over 200 times.
all: James Brown,
James Brown, James Brown!
- The folks outside
were wrapped around the corner
and on 125th Street,
so it really was home to him.
- Someone
That's the one
That's the someone
- It was James Brown
that with one song
erased the word "negro"
from our vocabulary forever
and made us say it
and say it loud,
that were black
and we were proud.
He made a way out of no way.
Open up the casket.
Let the world see a man's man.
Look at him:
The Godfather, James Brown.
- You know I like
to sing this song
- Go and sing your song.
- I said, I like
to sing this song
- Go and sing your song.
- People feel that the Apollo
is their sanctuary.
It is their place of worship.
It is their place
of convening.
- It makes me think
about the good things
[audience screams]
- For many people,
this is church.
- Ow!
- It's a place where people
come to see their dreams
come true,
to look for hope
and aspiration.
[crowds cheering]
- Harlem, it is now
my honor to introduce
the first sitting president
to ever speak
at the Apollo Theater.
Please welcome to Harlem
Barack Obama, the president
of the United States!
[upbeat pop music playing]
[cheers and applause]
- Hello, Harlem!
[cheers and applause]
Oh, it is good
to be here tonight!
[cheers and applause]
[cheers and applause]
So in love with you
[loud cheers and applause]
[peaceful music]
- I believe
as a master communicator,
he knew that music
creates instant connection.
- The Sandman
did not come out.
[laughter and applause]
I--I--now, don't worry, Rev.
I--I cannot sing like you,
but I did--I just wanted
to show my appreciation.
- He took the hearts
of everybody that was there.
It was a way,
and a beautiful way, of saying,
"Hey, I'm one of you."
- When you walk out
of the wings
and you take the mic,
you have stood on top
of the music scores,
the gag lines, the costumes,
the singers.
You've stood on top
of all of them,
and their spirit
and their souls
are in that floor.
[wistful piano music]
- So I just wanted
to take this opportunity
just to say ashe.
all: Ashe.
- Thank you, amen.
all: Amen.
- Amen, ameen.
all: Amen.
- [chuckles]
And just to have
that moment, yeah?
- I just want to say, um...
Prince was killed 18 years ago
and, like,
he was killed in the era
before camera phones
and this sort of thing
used to happen regularly
and these folks
would just be forgotten.
Kam knew Prince,
Greg knew Prince,
and he is not forgotten,
and that's so crucial.
Thank y'all. Thank y'all.
- I just want
to welcome you all tonight
to the first showing
of the adapted stage version
of "Between the World and Me"
by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
[cheers and applause]
So thank you very much
and welcome to
the "Between the World and Me."
[low chords]
- "I kept thinking about
how Southern men had
"and had always been
ground zero for us.
"They auctioned our bodies
down there
"in the same devastated
and rightly named
"Financial District.
"There was once a burial ground
for the auction there.
"They built a department store
over it.
"I will never forget that.
"Neither should you.
"Damn it all.
"And hell upon those
who would tell us
to be twice as good
and shoot us no matter."
[slow piano music]
- "Samori, I am speaking to you
as I always have,
"as the sober and serious man
"I have always
wanted you to be,
"who does not apologize
for his human feelings,
"who does not make excuses
for his height, his long arms,
"his beautiful smile.
"You're growing
into consciousness,
"and my wish for you is that
"you feel no need
to constrict yourself
to make
other people comfortable."
"I never wanted you
to be twice as good as them.
"I have always wanted you
"to attack every day
of your brief,
bright life in struggle."
Well, the Apollo, for me,
has always represented truth.
When you grace that stage,
when a performer
would walk upon that stage,
you had to bring all of you:
All of your spirit,
all of your soul,
all of your God-given talent,
all of your authenticity.
This is what's going on
in this world at this moment,
and we must attend to it,
we must prepare for it,
and we must struggle with it.
[piano-driven steady beat]
- My grandmother's suits
were tailor-made
Sundays, Mahalia played
Familiar ways like
the way she knelt and prayed
Will the Master forgive us?
The trespasses
had us real afraid
I never listened,
but I still obeyed
I got to see how Philly
played at such an early age
What my father was into
sent him to his early grave
I started doing what
I'm supposed to do in life
Trying to move
out of the dark
Closer to the light
You get a chance
to do it over, do it right
Tomorrow is a promise
every time
You say good night
- Here we go,
here, here we go again
Trayvon will never
get to be a older man
Black children, they
childhood stole from them
Let me do this again,
check it out
Here we go,
here, here we go again
Stephon Clark will never
get to be a older man
Black children, they
childhood stole from them
Robbed of our names and
our language, stole again
Who stole the soul
from black folk?
Same man that stole the land
from Chief Black Smoke
And made the whip
crack along our back slow
Made us go through
the back door
And raffle black bodies
on the slave blocks
I wish
the hatin' would stop
War, war!
And a battle with us
I know that Black Lives
Matter, and they matter to us
These are the things
we gotta discuss
The new plantation:
Mass incarceration
The hate the hate made,
I inherited from them
But I ain't gon'
point the finger
We got anointed singers
Like Nina, Marvin,
Billie, Stevie
Need to hear them songs
sometimes, so believe me
Who freed me
Lincoln or Cadillac?
Drinking or battle raps?
So is it Godspeed
that we travel at?
in our own habitat
With guns and dope, man,
y'all can have it back
As a matter of fact
You know, we from a family
of fighters
Fought in
your wars and our wars
You put a nigger
in "Star Wars"
Maybe you need two
[laughter and applause]
Then, maybe then,
we'll believe you
See black people
in the future
We wasn't shipped here
to rob and shoot ya
We hold these truths
to be self-evident
All men and women
are created equal
Including black Americans
[rapturous cheers and applause]
[upbeat jazz music]
[cheers and applause]
[slow piano music]
- "Son,
"I think back
to our trip to Homecoming.
"I think back to the warm
blasts rolling over us.
"We were at the football game.
"We were sitting
in the bleachers
"with old friends
and their children,
"caring neither
for fumbles nor first downs.
"There was a moment,
"a joyous moment,
beyond the Dream,
"a moment imbued by a power
"more gorgeous
than any voting rights bill.
"This power, this black power,
"originates in a view
of the American galaxy
"taken from
a dark and essential planet.
"Black power is the dungeon-
side view of Monticello,
"which is to say
the view taken in struggle.
"And black power births
a kind of understanding
"that illuminates
all the galaxies
"in their truest colors.
"Even the Dreamers feel it,
"for it is Billie
they reach for in sadness
"and Mobb Deep is what
they holler in boldness
"and Isley they hum in love
"and Dre they yell in revelry
and Aretha is the last sound
they hear before dying."
[stirring piano music]
"We have made something
down here.
"We have taken the
one-drop rules of Dreamers
"and flipped them.
"They made us into a race,
but we made ourselves
into a people."
[smooth stirring music]
- Come on down. Come on down.
This is 30 years of signatures
of all of the stars
that performed here.
We have Snoop Dogg.
- Whoa!
- There's John Legend.
There's Beyonc.
[kids exclaiming]
There's Prince,
Whoopi Goldberg,
Stevie Wonder.
[kids exclaiming]
Then over here we have
Barack Obama, Michelle Obama!
[kids shout]
Yeah, man.
- How many hills
and mountains
We've had to climb?
Oh, yeah
And how many ways
Have we had to sacrifice
Just to survive?
From slavery
to segregation
For freedom
and our liberation
Your number can't account
for how much we've paid
And deep within
this revolution
There lives
a Harlem institution
Where many dreams were born
and legends were made
So don't turn back now
We've come too far
not to make it
Don't turn back now
Don't turn back now
It might be hard,
you can take it
Don't turn back now
How many ways
Have we had
to overcome?
And how many lives
must we lose
Until we are one?
Until we have won
Our music is a revelation
The sound
of every generation
Powerful enough
to free us from chains
And after everything
we've been through
There is nothing
that we can't do
There is nothing
that can stand in our way
So don't turn back now
We've come too far
not to make it
Don't turn back now,
yeah, yeah
- Don't turn back now
- Don't turn back now
- It might be hard
It might be hard, yeah
- You can take it
Don't turn back now
[piano trills]
We can never give up
- We can never give up
- We were born to win
- We were born to win
We can be there
when times get rough
Oh, yes, we can
We're the builders
of a nation
We're the source
of inspiration
We're not
backing down at all
We know
- Don't turn back now
We've come too far
- We've come too far
- Not to make it
- Not to make it
- Don't turn back now
- Don't
- Don't turn back now
It might be hard
- It might be hard
- But we can make it
- But we can never give up
- Don't turn back now
- For you will get there
- Don't turn back now
- [scatting]
- We've come too far
not to make it
Don't turn back now
- Hold each other
- Don't turn back now
- Hold each other
- It might be hard,
we can take it
- It might be hard,
but don't give up
- Don't turn back now
- Never give up
Don't turn back now
We've come too far
not to make it
Oh, oh, yeah
Don't you turn,
don't you turn
Hold on
[bright tone]