On Sunday, February 26th, the Casino Theater in Newport will host a screening of the award-winning documentary film “Bonnie Blue: James Cotton’s Life in the Blues,” as part of Black History Month celebrations. Directed by Bestor Cram, the film examines the life and legacy of James Cotton, a legendary harmonica player and singer who overcame immense obstacles to become an international blues icon.
The film delves into Cotton’s early life, growing up as an orphan in the segregated Deep South, where he worked on Bonnie Blue plantation. Despite the challenges he faced, Cotton found solace in music and became a virtuoso harmonica player, eventually bringing the Delta Blues tradition to the forefront of the global music scene.
Rare archival footage and performances are woven throughout the documentary, providing a deep understanding of the blues tradition and Cotton’s contributions to it. The film has been screened in major cities around the world and has won several national awards, including the Library of Congress Ken Burns Prize for Film in 2021 and the International Black Film Festival at Nashville’s National Museum of African American Music.
Following the film, there will be a special half-hour live performance by the James Montgomery Blues Band, which includes a star-studded lineup of blues and rock-and-roll musicians. The band will be joined by Christine Ohlman, known as The Beehive Queen from Saturday Night Live, drummer Marty Richards formerly of Roomful of Blues, Duke Robillard and J. Geils, bassist David Hull of Joe Perry and Aerosmith, and guitarist George McCann from Ackroyd/Belushi’s Blues Brothers Band. Additionally, singer/guitarist Kara McKee, daughter of Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee and a former contestant on NBC’s “The Voice,” will make a special guest appearance.
Doors open at 6 PM, with appetizers and a cash bar available for attendees. Tickets for the event can be purchased for $40 on Eventbrite or at the door. This promises to be an unforgettable evening of music and film, celebrating the life and legacy of a true American musical icon.