The summer of 1969 was one for the books. It marked a cultural shift in popular music with the release of The Beatles’ Abbey Road and Led Zeppelin II, as well as Woodstock concert performances in upstate New York. But it wasn't just about these two legendary festivals – some of the biggest musical acts of all time also performed on New York City's Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park) stage that summer. Bands like Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, B.B. King, Sly & the Family Stone , Gladys Knight, and Mahalia Jackson were all there! While the world marvelled at Woodstock and a moon landing, Black people in Harlem were in search of a soulful respite to find a way through times of unrest. The Harlem Cultural Festival or Black Woodstock was forgottten.
The Harlem cultural festival spanned over six weeks and featured various genres from jazz to soul. This epic event was the brainchild of Tony Lawrence, a lounge singer and performer to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the assasiination of Martin Luther King while promoting black pride. Television veteran Hal Tulchin was brought in by sponsor General Mills and recorded hours of concert footage. A local New York Television affiliate aired two hours of footage but interest quickly waned. Over 40 hours of live performances from various black artists and speeches remained untouched for roughly 50 years. That is until legendary musician Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson put his hands on it.
Questlove takes this historical record of Black Woodstock and creates something that is part concert film and part music film. Summer of Soul (…Or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) will connect audiences with an almost forgotten part of black history in the United States. The film bridges decades of missing energy, strength and black pride into an epic film for QuestLove's directorial debut. He uses his personal experience as an artist and author who has written extensively about this pivotal time period for black people in America – including its cultural influence on hip-hop. He believes “the summer” is not just one thing but many things: it's American, it's blaxploitation movies; it’s reality TV shows; it’s hip hop culture; it’s the summer of love
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that black history will be erased….”
. “Blacks have always been a creative force of our culture. But sometimes those efforts are easily dismissed. I want to make sure that Black erasure doesn’t happen during my lifetime anymore, and the film was an opportunity to work towards that cause.” says Questlove. This feature documentary will having you singing while feeling the energy of what had to be a good time. Touching all styles of American American Music, there are new interviews about the communal Puerto Rican influence narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda and the division brought about from Marilyn McCoo and the 5th Dimension's “white sound” Not many understood the historical significance of Sly and the Family Stone Performance or that Stevie Wonder switched gears, hence the drum solo.
Summer of Soul is a stunning unearthed treasure that should be seen by ages. Now it is time to celebrate, learn and enjoy the history of the Summer of Soul. It is time to connect with this missing bridge of Black History. Nina Simone said it best in “Backlash Blues”…..I'm Black and I'm Proud
I give the movie 5 out of 5 pumps!My only complaint is that I need a part two or an actual Black Woodstock II.TomikaTalks
The Summer of Soul is the winner of both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance Film Festival will be released theatrically by Searchlight Pictures and will begin streaming on Hulu and in theaters in the U.S. on July 2, 2021. The film will also stream internationally through the Star offering on Disney+ on a date to be confirmed.
Running Time: 1 hour 57 minutes
Rating: PG-13 due to some disturbing images, smoking and brief drug material.
Director: Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson
Producers: Joseph Patel, Robert Fyvolent, David Dinerstein