Celebrating an integral part of the original wave of Black cinema: the music.
“I grew up watching those blaxploitation movies. Ron O'Neal, Richard Roundtree, Jim Brown, Pam Grier. For the first time, I saw 'The Negro' get one over on 'The Man.'” – Samuel L. Jackson
With all the talk about the recent blockbuster success of the recent Black Panther film, it is easy to forget that it wasn't all that long ago that Blacks in films were a very uncommon thing. Blaxploitation films, geared to a Black and Urban audience, got their name from Junius Griffin, a member of the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). He coined the term in 1971 after the release of two very important films in the genre: Sweet Sweetback's Badassss Song by Mario Van Peebles, and Shaft, starring Richard Roundtree with a score by Isaac Hayes.
With few exceptions, early Blaxploitation films generally tended to focus on situations and individuals in the Black community that were considered detrimental to its existence: pimps, drug dealers and thugs. This changed as the demand for these types of films, and the criticism of their subject matter, began to grow. We had Tamara Dobson as and in Cleopatra Jones, a Federal agent focused on stopping drugs; Pam Grier as the girlfriend of a Federal drug agent named Foxy Brown who avenges his murder by taking down the White Mob; Diana Ross in a portrayal of Jazz legend Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues; and Dianne Carroll as a woman on welfare who works under the table as a cleaning lady who falls in love with a garbage collector in Claudine, where she plays the titular character.
Gladys Knight and the Pips, 1970. (l-r) Edward Patten, Bubba Knight, Gladys Knight and William Guest. Courtesy of Echos/Redferns.
It was also the first time Black Soul and Funk artists had heard their music on the big screen in history. The period from the late 1960's through the early 1970's saw the Golden age of Soul lifted out of the urban airwaves and onto a national and international stage for the first time due in no small part to their inclusion in these films. These tracks were not just the sound of the this period, but paved the way for Black films in the decades that followed.
Our tracks this week: Title, Artist, Film Source
1. Theme from Foxy Brown, Willie Hutch, Foxy Brown
2. Across 110th Street, Bobby Womack, Across 110th Street
3. I Wanna Get Next to You, Rose Royce, Car Wash
4. Life is a Gamble, Marvin Gaye, Trouble Man
5. Make Yours a Happy Home, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Claudine
6. Mama’s Dead, James Brown, Black Caesar
7. Title Theme from Three Tough Guys, Isaac Hayes, Three Tough Guys
8. Time is Tight (single version), Booker T. and the MG’s, Time is Tight
9. Freddie’s Dead, Curtis Mayfield, Superfly
10. Killing Floor (live), Albert King, Wattstax
11. What A Little Moonlight Can Do, Diana Ross, Lady Sings The Blues
12. Hurts So Good, Millie Jackson, Cleopatra Jones
13. Let’s Do It Again, The Staple Singers, Let’s Do It Again
14. Theme from Together Brothers, Barry White, Together Brothers
15. Come on Feet, Melvin Van Peebles with Earth, Wind and Fire, Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song
Love to you all.
Ben “Bear” Brown Jr., owner
Ace of Spades PDX
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