Wednesday, August 15, 2018

WATTSTAX - "A Soulful Expression Of The Living Word" (1973)

It's pure and simple! I love good music, and tonight's Wednesday Concert is a film from 1973 about a 1972 concert in Watts, California to commemorate the 7 year anniversary of "The Watts Riots." The movie is called "Wattstax" and gives the viewer some rare historical insight into how the black community was feeling in 1972, good and bad.

So where was black music in the United States in 1972? "Wattstax" features only artists from the Memphis based Stax Label and it's affiliates, but there were also regional scenes happening all over the country!

 The "Wattstax" concert was held at The Coliseum in Los Angeles on a Sunday, August 20, 1972!
There was a bit of a problem, because there was an NFL football game the Saturday night before between Los Angeles and Oakland!

 So they couldn't get in to build the stage until after the game was over. They also only had a few hours to get the stadium all cleaned up after the football game. This was a concert that was going to happen come Hell or high water, and somehow they magically got it all done!

 Kim Weston sang "The Star Spangled Banner," and she was followed by the Reverend Jesse Jackson who gave an introduction and a speech! Now it was time to get it really going with The Staples Singers! Stax's The Staple Singers had a huge hit in 1972 with "I'll Take You There," and that was the last of the five songs they performed!

 Up next was the lesser known Jimmy Jones doing "Somebody Bigger than You and I."

 One of my all-time favorite singers is Rance Allen. I Think I still have three of his records. He's a big guy with a high voice that's powered by The Lord. Rance is just the best, and the song they chose for the film was called "Lying on the Truth," and it rocks!

 The shots of the 1972 crowd are always interesting!

 This show only ran from 2:38 in the afternoon until about 7:30 at night, but man, did they pack in a massive amount of entertainment in that small amount of time! Here, The Golden Thirteen perform "Old Time Religion." There is so much going on that when I first watched this movie, I thought this festival must have run for at least two days, not only five hours!

In between the musical segments, the makers of "Wattstax" decided to fill up the time with a bunch of interviews and commentary of mostly angry black men, and it's also injected with footage of a 32 year old Richard Pryor telling it like it is. He really was crazy, crazy like a fox! If you can't stand listening to people using the 'N' word, then you probably won't make it through this movie. It's kind of funny, the music is very spiritual, but the language would never be tolerated in church I'm sure! Kind of a strange juxtaposition! Just like the Film about the Monterey Pop Festival, I would have rather seen more music, maybe some of show that included Eddie Floyd or Little Sonny.

 The original Bar-Kays were also the backing band for Otis Redding, and four members also perished in the same plane crash that Otis died in.

 The trumpet player Ben Cauley was the only one to survive the crash, and the bassist James Alexander was on another plane. Together they reformed the band! The sax player with the white Afro is Harvey Henderson!

 The Bar-Kays had the great instrumental "Soul Finger," and here they perform "Son of Shaft" which is fitting since Issac Hayes is the headliner of the show! In 1978, The Bar-Kays released the classic "Shut The Funk Up!" Yeah!

The truly amazing Carla Thomas performs "Pick Up the Pieces!" 

 Stax Records were still firmly rooted in the blues, and the great Albert King performs "I'll Play The Blues For You!"

 Mr. "Walkin' The Dog" himself, Rufus Thomas puts on a fiery performance!!

 I could never do it, but Rufus can dress like this and still look cool, when I'd look like a fool! The very funky song he's performing is called "Breakdown!"

 I'm not sure what Rufus was thinking but during his performance of "Do The Funky Chicken" he tells everybody to come down on the field, something the promoters were trying to avoid, because they didn't want to do any damage to the grass on the field! So, Rufus calls everybody down, and when the song is over, he tells them to go back to their seats, which everybody isn't so agreeable to! Weird situation!

 Luther Ingram's big hit "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right" was on Koko Records, which was a Stax sub-label. They must have been on a very tight schedule, because I swear Luther is looking at this watch while he's singing!

 The show closes with a performance by the man known as Black Moses or Issac Hayes!

Issac does an incredible performance of "The Theme From Shaft" and "Soulsville!"

Thanx to Robert M. Lindsey for correcting me on my bonehead Aretha label error, and in the meantime I was able to locate my cassette tape of the soundtrack for "Wattstax" because I wanted you to see the Richard Pryor Warning sticker, and that they misspelled Jesse Jackson's name!
The list of Rhythm and Blues #1 hits from 1972 starts with Al Green, whose home base was also Memphis, but on a completely different label called "Hi Records."
The Dramatics were from Detroit but recorded for the "Volt Label," a subsidiary of "Stax Records!"
"King Records" was based in Cincinnati and had The Godfather of Soul on their label, James Brown whose hit that year was "Talkin' Loud and Sayin' Nothing (Pt. 1)."
Joe Tex had a big hit called "I Gotcha" on "Dial Records" out of Nashville! 
Our hearts go out to "The Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin who is very sick, and might not be with us much longer! Aretha had her hit "Day Dreaming" on "Atlantic Records" also in 1972!
The Chi-Lites from Chicago had a hit "Oh Girl" that was on the old school Brunswick Label.
And there were a bunch of Philadelphia artists that had hits in 1972, like The O'Jays with "Back Stabbers," Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes doing "If You Don't Know Me By Now, and Billy Paul and his huge hit "Me and Mrs. Jones!"
Detroit City's "Motown Label" only had a #1 hit by The Spinners in 1972, "I'll Be Around."
The list is rounded out by Bobby Womack (United Artists), Joe Simon (Spring), Bill Withers (Sussex), Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway (Atlantic,) and Billy Preston (A&M)
Sly and the Family Stone's hit "Family Affair" was on the "Epic" label, and they were from San Francisco! The whole Stax catalogue ended up being bought up by "Fantasy Records" from San Francisco, then sold to "Concord" and some albums have been licensed and are available today from "Rhino Records" in Los Angeles where "Wattstax" was recorded, so we've come full circle!
And remember, no matter who you are, "You are somebody!"


Robert M. Lindsey said...

Aretha wasn't with Atlantic in 1972? She was with Columbia early in her career, but then switched to Atlantic where all her huge 1960s hits came from.

EEGAH!! said...

My Bad!! Good Call Robert! It was just a test to see if anybody really reads this stuff! I'll go fix it now!

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