Stax Records launched the careers of Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Carla & Rufus Thomas, and Booker T. & The MGs back in the 1960s and 70s. But then disco hit big and all but wiped soul music off the map. This documentary harkens back to the golden era of soul and catches up with the carriers of the Stax dynasty, including Wilson Pickett, Sam Moore, Mary Wilson, Isaac Hayes, and The Chi Lites. Written by
Taken from R&B pioneer Jerry Butler's most enduring hit, the title of this upbeat, soulful documentary provides an evolution of R&B in the cities across the nation where soul music flourished between 1960 and 1975.
Opening with 82 year old Rufus Thomas, referred to as Memphis' "Other King," he was still broadcasting his popular weekly program in Memphis, credited with giving soul music and R&B its start, moving on to Philadelphia, New York, Chicago and Detroit. A legend in his own right, as a disc jockey, Rufus was the first to play Elvis Presley records for black audiences.
Loaded with incredible concert footage, the performers prove that they can still enthrall audiences in an undiminished capacity years after their peak of popularity. The ageless Wilson Pickett is mesmerizing as ever on stage, while Jerry Butler croons a smooth love song. Sam Moore is truly electrifying, especially when he performs "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby." Isaac Hayes is honored, calling attention to his major role at Stax Records, where he wrote or co-wrote many of its major hits. Most touching is Rufus Thomas, who recently died at 84, in a duet with daughter Carla on "Night Time Is the Right Time." Sam Moore recalls his dark days as a drug pusher, and despite his age (and a triple bypass) Rufus Thomas delivers a dynamic performance (sadly, he died in December 2001, just as "Only the Strong Survive" was being completed for its premiere at Sundance).
This graceful film also showcases soul music legends Mary Wilson, the Chi-Lites, Carla Thomas and Ann Peebles, exuding a lack of bitterness and gratefulness for the good things and a relentless energy to continue on with their talents as the true artists that they are.
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