On Sunday, June 28th, over 50 artists and tens of thousands of fans came together for Justice Comes Alive, a one-day, virtual festival harnessing the power of music to bring about collective change in response to racial inequality. The donation-based streaming event generated $55,000 and counting in funds for the participating artists, who remain out of work as the pandemic continues, as well as a number of social justice-oriented causes via PLUS1 For Black Lives Fund.
The 12-hour live-stream marathon featured new contributions by an array of amazing artists from around the world including legendary bluesman Bobby Rush, who played a set of four songs intercut with personal stories of the racism he’s faced over the course of a more than half a century on the road.
Born Emmett Ellis Jr. in Louisiana in 1933, Rush moved to Arkansas in 1947 and later, in the early ’50s, landed in Chicago. The segment began on a somber note as Rush reminisced about the prejudice he faced when playing in an all-white club in Chicago in 1951. “I had to play behind a curtain,” Rush recounted. “They wanted to hear my music but not see my face. That’s why I’m willing to do what I’m doing now, because I want you to know a few things that you may or may not know about.”
From there, the 86-year-old Grammy-winner and Blues Hall of Famer dove into his first song, original tune “Sometimes I Wonder”, featured on his forthcoming new album, Rawer Than Raw, due out on August 28th via his own Deep Rush imprint and Thirty Tigers.
In addition to originals like “Sometimes I Wonder”, the new album will feature covers of songs by Bobby’s contemporaries in the music scene from the ’50s and ’60s like Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin’ Wolf, and Muddy Waters as well as early acoustic blues greats Skip James and Robert Johnson. Much like the new album, Rush’s Justice Comes Alive performance also dipped into songs by Bobby’s influences including renditions of Elmore James– and Marshall Sehorn– penned standard “Early One Morning” and Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning”. Finally, to close out his Justice Comes Alive performance, Bobby Rush picked up his harmonica to accompany himself on one final original set to appear on Rawer Than Raw, “Garbage Man”.
Revisit the fascinating Bobby Rush segment from Justice Comes Alive below. If you enjoyed the performance and have the means, consider making a donation to Plus1 For Black Lives Fund via www.JusticeComesAlive.com.
Bobby Rush – Justice Comes Alive – Full Set
Setlist: Bobby Rush | Justice Comes Alive
Set: Sometimes I Wonder, Early One Morning (Little Richard), Smokestack Lightning (Howlin’ Wolf), Garbage Man
Presented by Live For Live Music in partnership with PLUS1 and Nugs.TV, Justice Comes Alive was conceived as a way to harness the power of music to bring about collective change in response to racial inequality. All funds raised from Justice Comes Alive will be split evenly between the artists on the bill and the PLUS1 For Black Lives Fund, which was developed to address and continue the fight against anti-Black racism and violence in the U.S.
Directly supporting organizations like Equal Justice Initiative, Impact Justice, and The Bail Project, the PLUS1 For Black Lives Fund focuses on empowering Black communities, movement building, keeping people out of the criminal justice system while dismantling it more broadly, and a collective, international narrative change toward the equitable treatment of Black people. 30% of the PLUS1 for Black Lives Fund is also committed to small grants for Black and Indigenous-led grassroots efforts combating racism. For more information on Justice Comes Alive, head here.