Review: Questlove's "Summer of Soul"

Tuesday, June 29, 2021


Hey Mofos!

I love learning about all things Black music history related, so it was a no-brainer that I HAD to see the documentary "Summer of Soul" by the amazing Questlove. 

"Summer of Soul (...Or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)"  will be released in theaters by Searchlight Pictures and on Hulu on 7/2 so make sure you check it out. What is the film about? Let's get down to it. 

This is the directorial debut of Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson and honestly, I trust anything he puts out that's music related because have you seen his music collection??? His knowledge of Soul Train is impeccable which makes him a fav in my book, not to mention his own musical legacy. Anyhoo, "Summer of Soul" revisits the historical Harlem Cultural Festival in the summer of 1969. Y'all. There are never before seen performances from a young Steve Wonder, Nina Simone, David Ruffin, 5th Dimension, Gladys Knight & the Pips, and more! 

Peep the trailer: 

All I'm gonna say is I felt some kind of way not being born yet and able to attend such an amazing festival. Watching it, I swear I was in a time machine and was right there in the crowd--the smell of sweat, that blue hair grease (IF YOU KNOW, YOU KNOW), food from vendors, the stench of weed (cuz I know there was some), and the sounds of singing, laughter, being bumped from the dancing--all the makings of a great time. The "Black Woodstock" as it's called by Hal Tulchin who was chronicling as much of the festival as possible. Cameras were brought in to capture the footage of every performer and grab reaction shots of the crowd. Meanwhile, that same summer, Woodstock was in progress and a film documenting that was a hit so Tulchin was sure pinning that nickname on it, would have the same appeal. 

Nah. Not so much. That's why the footage hasn't been seen until now. 

Imagine a 19 year old Stevie Wonder doing a drum solo. I swear I don't think I even knew he knew how to play the drums! I was mesmerized. Y'all know I love those tempting Temptations, and former lead man David Ruffin didn't disappoint. He held a single note for 20 seconds before launching into a soul-scream that had me in my living room praise dancing. THAT MAN CAN SAAAANG--and it made me remember that truly, "ain't nobody comin' to see you Otis" .. we came to see David sang his face off. Sly & the Family Stone brought the funk, while Nina Simone (side note-she is a NC Music Hall of Fame inductee and I urge you to check out her exhibit), is a vision to witness performing. Other standouts include Mahalia Jackson and Mavis Staples belting out "Take My Hand, Precious Lord," so you got some church and amen on a hot summer day. It was very church tent revival and I was here for it. 

The crowd shots make this entire documentary really shine. The hairstyles, the fashions, their facial expressions from being so hype to over the summer heat. I also loved hearing the artists today talk about putting that show together and hearing the climate of how things were during that time. Honestly, that summer of 69 could very well still be summer of 21 (just add in masks) because racial tensions are still out of order. 

I was left with the question of why this glorious festival was forgotten and who can we blame? But, maybe we aren't supposed to know. Instead, we should be grateful that we finally got to see the music, and a testament to Black power and beauty live and in color. It's more than just a concert film, it's a snapshot of a powerful moment in our history. 

So let me know who your favorite performance after you watch it! 


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