Miami has hosted some amazing musical legends. We took a look at some of our favorite moments in Miami’s musical history, from Aretha Franklin demanding respect at the historic Lyric Theater to Luciano Pavarotti hitting those high C notes at the Florida Grand Opera.
Legends visit Overtown’s Lyric Theater
By 1913, the 400-seat Overtown Lyric Theater was the anchor of Little Broadway, a strip full of hotels, restaurants, and nightclubs visited by blacks and whites alike. The Lyric Theater was and still is a great source of pride for Miami’s black community. It hosted the likes of legendary performers like Count Basie, Aretha Franklin, Celia Cruz, B.B. King, Patti LaBelle, and Ella Fitzgerald. Many times black performers would visit Miami Beach to perform but were not permitted to stay at the hotels. As a result, they would travel back to Overtown after their performances and often play late night sets, dancing deep into the night.
The Beatles tour America
The Beatles’ first US tour began in New York in Feb. 7, 1964. After two shows in New York and Washington D.C., they headed down to Miami Beach on Feb. 16, 1964, to make their second television appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. The performance was broadcasted live from the Napoleon Ballroom of the Deauville Beach Resort in Miami Beach. They played six of their early hits: “She Loves You,” “This Boy, All My Loving,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “From Me To You,” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” in front of 2,600 live audience members. The show was watched by almost 70 million people.
The Doors’ Jim Morrison lets it all hang out
The Doors frontman allegedly whipped it all out during a concert on March 2, 1969, at the Dinner Key Auditorium, now known as the Coconut Grove Convention Center. Throughout the show, Morrison ignited the crowd of 10,000, telling them to “Come up and touch me” and poured champagne on his head. Then, while moshing in a crowd of almost 60 people, he pulled it out. Outraged county officials issued a Wanted poster and slapped Morrison with six arrest warrants, and a felony charge of “Lewd and lascivious behavior in public by exposing his private parts and by simulating masturbation and oral copulation,” according to Rolling Stone.
Janis Joplin at the University of Miami
On November 15, 1969, almost 15,000 people gathered on the University of Miami’s Intramural Fields to hear Joplin’s electrifying voice. She likely performed hits of the year like “As Good as You’ve Been to This World,” “Kozmic Blues,” and “Work Me, Lord.” Soon after, she went on to perform in Tampa, where she was charged with using vulgar language while on stage at Curtis Hall.
Luciano Pavarotti’s American debut
At 32 years old, Pavarotti made his first American debut at the Greater Miami Opera, now known as the Florida Grand Opera, opposite world-renowned Australian soprano Joan Sutherland. Sutherland requested Pavarotti perform after hearing his performance in La Bohème at London’s Covent Garden. The young italian tenor was asked to step in for his idol Giuseppe di Stefano as Rodolfo as after Stefano fell ill before the performance. In February 1965, Pavarotti was featured in the opera Lucia di Lammermoor in Miami. Pavarotti and Sutherland continued performing together, notably at Covent Garden and the New York Metropolitan. With each performance, his voice would catapult him to international stardom, and he eventually came to be known as the golden voice of opera.
Miami Pop Festival
At one point, Hallandale was actually cool, guys. In May 1968, the first Miami Pop Festival took place at Gulfstream Park, attracting artists like Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Blue Cheer, Chuck Berry, John Lee Hooker, and The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown. Hendrix was particularly inspired by the event, and even wrote “Rainy Day, Dream Away” after the second day of the festival was rained out. He also released an album of his performance entitled “Miami Pop Festival.” The second festival featured the likes of Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac, and The Grateful Dead. It was the largest and first major festival on the East Coast at the time.
Nirvana’s only Miami performance
On November 27, 1993, Nirvana had their first and only Miami performance at Bayfront Park Amphitheater. Their set started with “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter,” rolled through classics like “Come As You Are,” and “Lithium,” and ended with the iconic “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” They had to restart “Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam,” because Krist Novoselic’s accordion was having some problems. During this magical performance, the band also had a jam session that honored “Heartbreaker” by Led Zeppelin.