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0 Summer of Soul…or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised

  • Video
  • by Kingsley H. Smith
  • 02/25/2022

The movie Summer of Soul was exclusively offered on streaming services until February 8, 2022. The DVD is now released. Summer of Soul…or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised is a Black History gem filmed in 1969.

Summer of Soul

It is amazing that the master tapes of this cultural slice of America sat for over 50 years only to be recently rediscovered. 300,000 people attended The Harlem Cultural Festival in Mount Morris Park (renamed Marcus Garvey Park in 1973). Artists entertained over six consecutive weekends.

Music, history and culture came together on the performance stage for all to see. The DVD is directed by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson of The Roots fame.

Held in the same year as the Woodstock Festival, film (movie) rights for The Harlem Cultural Festival generated zero interest in 1969 from entrepreneurs.

Restoration of the master film is outstanding. We give the technical clarity of the cinematography an A+. The sound mix is also excellent.

General Foods was one of the few corporate sponsors. The festival budget was so slim that lights for evening performances were not rented. We learn in the film that the stage was positioned to face west to capture the setting sun.

The Black Panthers helped with security as there were questions about whether the New York City police would be there.

Questlove does a brilliant job presenting this story in just under two hours. You’ll see tremendous performances by Stevie Wonder, The Chambers Brothers, B.B. King, Herbie Mann, and The 5th Dimension.

The star parade continued with The Edwin Hawkins Singers, The Staple Singers, Professor Herman Stevens & The Voices of Faith, Clara Walker & The Gospel Redeemers, Mahalia Jackson, and some spiritual - cultural inspiration from The Reverend Jesse Jackson.

Also seen in the DVD giving their best efforts are David Ruffin, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Mongo Santamaria, Ray Barretto, guitarist Sonny Sharrock, drummer Max Roach with singer Abbey Lincoln, and trumpeter Hugh Masekela.

Dinzulu and his African Dancers and Drummers supply syncopated foot stompin' steps and beats to entertain the crowds.

Comedians Moms Mabley and Willie Tyler & Lester (ventriloquist) contribute some laughs.

Nina Simone really brings the house down with her songs. “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” is a highlight. The innovative Sly & The Family Stone also entertained Harlem with a whole new musical thing.

What you’ll like most about Summer of Soul is the way cultural realities are integrated into the music story telling. Artists who were there in 1969 give their 2022 reflections on and off camera.

We get an accurate Black perspective about a turbulent decade during which cutting edge music tried to push the activism of social change forward.

We’ve spent a lot of time with 1) Summer of Soul. Four more movies are also recommended for a historic view about 20th Century classic soul music.

2) Soul Power (DVD released in 2010): Three nights of music in Zaire. It’s 1974. The boxing rumble in the jungle between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman is scheduled (they did fight 6 weeks later).

Like Summer of Soul, this is more than just a concert film. It’s a slice of 1974 African American - Black African culture. Performances include The Spinners, B.B. King, The Fania All Stars featuring Celia Cruz, Bill Withers, Miriam Makeba, The Crusaders, conga player Big Black, and headliner James Brown.

In a deleted scene you'll see Sister Sledge singing "On and On" (the Gladys Knight song from the Claudine Soundtrack). Other DVD deleted scenes offer insight into the culture of Kinshasa, Zaire.

There are great segments of classic Muhammad Ali rhyming along with his signature catch phrases promoting the coming George Foreman fight.

3) The Blues Brothers and 4) Blues Brothers 2000. Worth it because Ray Charles, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and a master’s class worth of R&B and blues folks perform. Many of them are no longer with us. Tolerate the antics of Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi and John Goodman and watch the real musical stars shine.

5) Soul Men (honorable mention). This movie is clearly entertainment and not presented in any historic context. You might say that similarities exist between the Soul Men story and the career of Atlantic recording artists Sam & Dave.

In Soul Men, lead actors Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac meander their way through a love hate relationship. Nice cameos too from Isaac Hayes and John Legend. Samuel L. sings great! Soul Men is worth your comedic time.

Leave your comments if you've seen any of these 5 movies. I would say from a historic perspective our top 'must see pick' is Summer of Soul.

Watch my video, then listen to what Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. have to say about the Summer of Soul in their audio interview.

Listen to The 5th Dimension's Marilyn McCoo And Billy Davis Jr. reminisce about 1969's 'Summer Of Soul' and talk about their Beatles cover album Blackbird by visiting:


Marilyn McCoo and 5th Dimension

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Summer of Soul…or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised
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