Tuesday , May 17 2022

“Black Woodstock” Returns

The 1973 concert film Wattstax returns for a limited engagement theatrical run staring June 6 with original ending restored:

    On August 20, 1972, more than 100,000 people attended what came to be known as “the black Woodstock.” The popular appeal and broad diversity of the attending Stax Records artists ensured its uniqueness. Wattstax – The Special Edition is the 30th anniversary release of the film that documented that historic event and includes the once-lost original ending featuring Isaac Hayes’ performances of “Theme From Shaft” and “Soulsville.”
    However, Wattstax – The Special Edition is more than just a concert film. Powerful interviews with inner-city residents of Watts, California add a still relevant political edge while Richard Pryor adds comedic social commentary. Wattstax – The Special Edition is a movie that captures and celebrates a special time in our history when black power, pride and optimism were at their zenith. Right On!

Yeah, right on and stuff.

Though I am a huge fan of Stax music, I have never seen the film – I guess the time has come:

    The powerful beauty and dynamism of the original Wattstax film was overlooked for decades. Due to rights complications and the mature themes of Wattstax’s content, it recieved little play after its initial theatrical run in 1973. Correcting this neglect and providing new audiences the chance to see the film were reason enough to strike fresh prints and re-release it on the thirtieth anniversary of its premiere. But, after tracking down the long-lost original Isaac Hayes closing songs, “Theme From Shaft” and “Soulsville” and dressing the entire soundtrack up in newly remixed and remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 sound Wattstax – The Special Edition demanded, “Get me out there to be seen and heard!”

    The challenge in evolving the 1973 version of Wattstax into Wattstax – The Special Edition was staying true to the original life and soul of the film while taking advantage of new knowledge and technology to add greater depth and richness to the initial vision – an endeavor accomplished with a sense of tribute and joy for the work and efforts of those who came before. Wattstax – The Special Edition proudly continues the legacy of the musicians, organizers, filmmakers and all who participated in the Wattstax experience.

What was it about?

    Wattstax the concert and Wattstax the film were unprecedented events for the Los Angeles African-American community and a source of great pride. In the weeks surrounding the filming of the concert, the predominately African-American film crews took to the streets, recording candid interviews with local African-Americans and capturing a unique, unvarnished view of the Watts community.

    The crew also filmed then little known comic Richard Pryor’s biting insights on the black experience which frame the entire Wattstax movie. The mise-en-scene of Wattstax is all undiluted summer of ’72 funk, jive and soul as expressed in and around the streets of Watts. Interspersed throughout Wattstax – The Special Edition are the dynamic fashion, knowing humor, indomitable courage, uncanny insight, and undeniable style of Black Los Angeles.

    From conception to realization, Stax Records was the driving force behind staging the Wattstax concert in conjucntion with The Watts Summer Festival. They had the foresight and vision to commission a documentary of not just the concert, amazing as it was, but of African-American life in and around Watts as well. The original 1972 Film Production Notes, provide the story within the story of Wattstax – The Special Edition. To delve more deeply into the backstory of Wattstax visit the Wattstax Bilbliography.

Dig it.

Most important, check out this lineup:

Wattstax Onscreen Performances In Order Of Appearance
(Song, Artist, Location)
“The Star Spangled Banner,” Kim Weston, L.A. Coliseum

“Lift Ev’ry Voice And Sing (The Black National Anthem),” Kim Weston, L.A.Coliseum

“Somebody Bigger Than You And I,” Jimmy Jones, L.A. Coliseum

“Lying On The Truth,” The Rance Allen Group, L.A. Coliseum

“Peace Be Still,” The Emotions, Friendly Will Church

“Old Time Religion,” Stax Golden 13 (William Bell, Eddie Floyd, Debra Manning, Eric Mercury, Freddy Robinson, Lee Sain, Ernie Hines, Little Sonny, Louise McCord, Newcomers, Temprees, Frederick Knight), L.A. Coliseum

“Respect Yourself,” The Staple Singers, L.A. Coliseum

“Son Of Shaft,” The Bar-Kays, L.A. Coliseum

“I’ll Play The Blues For You,” Albert King, L.A. Coliseum

“Walking The Backstreets And Crying,” Little Milton, Watts Railroad Tracks

“Jody’s Got Your Girl And Gone,” Johnnie Taylor, The Summit Club – Los Angeles, CA

“Pick Up The Pieces,” Carla Thomas, L.A. Coliseum

“The Breakdown,” Rufus Thomas, L.A. Coliseum

“Do The Funky Chicken,” Rufus Thomas, L.A. Coliseum

“If Lovin’ You Is Wrong (I Don’t Want To Be Right),” Luthar Ingram, L.A. Coliseum

“Theme From Shaft,” Isaac Hayes, L.A. Coliseum

“Soulsville,” Isaac Hayes, L.A. Coliseum

“Lift Ev’ry Voice And Sing (Reprise),” Kim Weston, L.A. Coliseum

Wattstax Additional Offscreen Performances
“Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get,” The Dramatics

“Oh La De Da,” The Staple Singers

“We The People,” The Staple Singers

“I May Not Be What You Want,” Mel and Tim

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About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: [email protected], Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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