This week I wanted to recommend a movie. It’s called The Summer Of Soul. I’ve embedded the trailer below. The film is a documentary that was pieced together from found live music footage of the Harlem Cultural Festival that took place over the course of six weeks in 1969 in what is now known as Marcus Garvey Park, in Harlem, NY. The bill included: Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, Nina Simone, The 5th Dimension, The Staple Singers, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Sly and the Family Stone and many more.
The performances are astounding and easily rival anything captured at Woodstock, which occurred the very same year. So, how do two, iconic, music events take place the same year and one becomes known as perhaps the most important cultural event in of a decade and the other fades into relative obscurity, with the footage lying dormant in a man’s basement for fifty years? This is partially the question director Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson is attempting to answer with Summer Of Soul.
One of the many interesting things, for me, was how much raw spiritually was on display in in the film. Legendary gospel acts like the great Mahalia Jackson and The Staple Singers transitioned seamlessly with more secular artists suck as Nina Simone and Sly and the Family Stone. It made me think about how most popular music these days utilizes technology in the form of big light shows, video screens and complex high end sound systems to connect with an audience. I suppose I’m talking about artists that understood how to tap into that transformative quality of music and connect with their audience on a gut level, because that’s all they had.
Both politically and artistically, there are a number of important issues surrounding this film. I found the humanity conveyed, not just through the performances but in the shots of the crowd’s embrace with this music to be some of the most compelling moments.
Below is a playlist of songs that have resonated with me in the past month. I hope they bring more joy to your life. Thanks for listening, MMM
Included are songs by: Mudhoney, Sven Safarow, Eugene McDaniels, Ida Mae, Marcus King, Curtis Mayfield, illuminati hotties, Prince, St. Vincent, Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Brainiac, Angel Olsen, Wipers, Alice Coltrane, Spiritualized
(Subscribe to get a new playlist every 1st Monday of the month. Click on my user link or search: Major Matt’s 1st Monday on Spotify to cruise past playlists and discover more music.)