Documentary covering a Stax Records-sponsored all-day concert at the 1972 Watts Summer Festival with performances by Stax Records artists such as Isaac Hayes, Rufus Thomas, The Staples Singers, and more.
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Trish Van Devere,
Documentary with a selection from a non-stop 7-hour musical event at Watts, the Los Angeles Coliseum, August 20, 1972. It's a sort of Woodstock event but with black artists, namely the groups Dramatics, Staple Singers, Rance Allen Group, Emotions, Bar Kays, Mel & Tim. Written by
Richard Pryor and the Stax Records roster dominate Wattstax
On August 20, 1972-the seventh anniversary of the Watts riots-a 7 hour concert of various musical acts from the Stax Records roster was held at the Los Angeles Coliseum in honor of that event. Among those artists put in the film include: The Stax Golden 13 warbling "Old Time Religion", The Staple Singers chanting "Respect Yourself", Kim Weston performing "Lift Every Voice and Sing", The Bar-Kays doing "Son of Shaft", Albert King singing "I'll Sing the Blues for You", Carla Thomas warbling "Picking Up the Pieces", Rufus Thomas performing "The Breakdown" and "Do the Funky Chicken", Luthur Ingram wailing "If Loving You is Wrong, I Don't Want to be Right", and Isaac Hayes doing-of course-"Theme From Shaft". In addition, three young women called The Emotions perform in a church with "Peace Be Still". All are surrounded by Richard Pryor doing some hilarious monologues about growing up black as well as many Watts residents-one of which I recognized as Ted Lange, later Isaac on "The Love Boat"-also talking about pretty much the same thing. Director Mel Stuart also provides lots of documentary footage of the area as it was at the time and during the events this film addresses. The performances I saw were great and I was especially glad to see the Hayes sequence since it wasn't in the airing on Cinemax in the '90s when I first watched this. The version I saw just now was on YouTube with the first 49 minutes from a French broadcast and the other an Asian one though it cut off after Luther Ingram in the middle of Pryor's next segment so I had to look elsewhere on the YouTube site for Richard's remaining monologues and Hayes' restored performance (I've yet to see his other number "Soulsville"). Nonetheless, this was a great documentary with excellent musical performances all around. So on that note, Wattstax is well worth seeing. P.S. Both The Emotions and The Staple Singers were native to my birthtown of Chicago, Ill. Luther Ingram was the co-writer-with Mack Rice-of the Staples' "Respect Yourself". It happened to be Hayes' 30th birthday when he performed at this event. And I also noticed Ossie Davis and wife Ruby Dee among the audience members. Update: 6/8/13-I've now seen Hayes' "Soulsville" performance and it's a nice serious number about the struggles of his people living below their means with pertinent footage accompanying it.
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