Stickin’ It To The Man!

 

You know the drill: can’t sleep, get up, start watchin’ TV.  But one night I flipped past Turner Classic Movies and they had one of those great blaxploitation movies from the 1970s.  Didn’t catch the title, but Fred Williamson was blastin’ pimps and the fuzz with a machine gun, beddin’ buck-naked babes and generally stickin’ it to The Man.  Thanks, TCM, that sure fits my definition of “classic” and I wound up getting no sleep that night!

In the early 1970s, Hollywood determined there was an eager audience for movies made about black Americans.  So they started crankin’ them out – most were cliché-filled, violent films that wildly played up the stereotypes of the day.  You had yer revenge dramas, like Coffy, where a hot, sassy mama (Pam Grier) tracks down the dealers who got her sister hooked on the big H.  And you had yer private dick dramas, like Shaft and Slaughter.  You also had anti-heroes, like Ron O’Neal’s Superfly or Fred Williamson’s Black Caesar; they were the grandaddies of today’s gangstas.  Of course each one had enough pimps, players, gunplay and get-nekkid women to keep the audiences coming back for more.

And of course, the best thing about these movies were the soundtracks.  The producers (usually working for cheap-ass American International Pictures) had the foresight to hire some of the best R&B cats playing at the time and as a result the music had legs.  Who can forget Isaac Hayes performing “Theme From Shaft” on the Oscars, wearing nothing but a chain (not chain-mail, baby, CHAIN) shirt?  He won an Oscar, that’s right.  James Brown doing the soundtrack from Black Caesar, Marvin Gaye doing Trouble Man, Bobby Womack doing Across 110th Street and of course the stone classic of them all, Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly soundtrack.

Blaxploitation films are still around today, of course.  They’re mostly those dreary comedies, where some guy dresses up as an old lady (or plays multiple roles), or a buddy-cop thing, or some rap thing.  But it isn’t p.c. to call it blaxploitation any more.  Pretty much all movies are some kind of exploitation, if you want to look at it that way.  Whatever – if you have a chance, check out the MGM “Soul Cinema” series on DVD or stay up late one night and tune in TCM.  Groovy!

MP3: Theme from Shaft by Isaac Hayes

MP3: Shaft radio commercial

MP3: Blowin’ Your Mind by O.C. Smith (from Shaft’s Big Score)

MP3: Cleopatra Jones radio commercial

MP3: Love Doctor by Millie Jackson (from Cleopatra Jones)

MP3: The Mack radio commercial

MP3: I Choose You by Willie Hutch (from The Mack)

MP3: Black Mama, White Mama radio commercial

MP3: Pusher Man by Curtis Mayfield (from Superfly)

MP3: Slaughter radio commercial

MP3: Hang On In There by Bobby Womack & Peace (from Across 110th Street)

MP3: Coffy radio commercial

MP3: Cotton Comes To Harlem by Galt MacDermot

MP3: Black Caesar radio commercial

MP3: The Boss by James Brown (from Black Caesar)

MP3: Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off radio spot

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