Wattstax [SLYT] is a 1973 documentary film about the 1972 Wattstax music festival, held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the Watts riots. Featuring performances by Isaac Hayes, Albert King, Rufus and Carla Thomas, The Staple Singers, The Emotions, The Bar-Kays, and other greats of soul, R&B, and gospel, Wattstax also incorporates relatively unknown comic Richard Pryor's musings on life for black Americans in 1972, "man-and-woman-on-the-street" interviews, and audience footage. [NSFW] [more inside]
Fans of classic southern R&B and soul, and I'm talking the Stax variety, should get down on their knee and genuflect toward Norway, and then sing the praises of the BBC down every corner and alleyway of the city of Memphis. Why? Well, for hosting and for documenting a sweaty, burning, solidly funky evening back in 1967: Otis Redding & Friends Stax Volt Revue
Millions may know him best from one of the only lines he delivered in the Blues Brothers movie: "We had a band powerful enough to turn goat piss into gasoline". Others who notice these things will remember him as the guy who also played the bass in the Blues Brothers band. And those for whom Stax records and the Memphis sound are important will know him as the four-string foundation of the great Booker T and the MGs, and the man who lent his solid, no-frills bass lines to many a tune by soul luminaries Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and lots of other greats. Memphis-born bassman Donald "Duck" Dunn has died while on tour (along with fellow legend and bandmate Steve Cropper) in Tokyo. RIP, Duck Dunn, and if there's any goat piss in heaven, I know you're gonna turn it into gasoline up there, too.
Rufus Thomas 1917-2001 Since the 11th of September, I've left the radio off a great deal of the time, so it was only today, while listening to Terry Gross's Fresh Air, that I heard Rufus Thomas had died. A performer since he was child comedian and tap dancer with the Rabbit's Foot Minstrels, he also was a famous dj on WDIA in Memphis, the first all-black radio station format in the country, recorded Bear Cat, an answer song to Big Mama Thornton's Hound Dog that was an early hit for Sam Phillips' Sun Records and enjoyed a brief second career as the World's Oldest Teenager--singing Walkin' The Dog and Funky Chicken and many duets with daughter Carla--for Stax Records. From minstrel show to medicine show to dj to elder statesman of Memphis soul, his life and career spanned history. I, for one, will miss him.