Today we go back to the summer of 1969 to talk about Questlove’s astonishing documentary Summer of Soul; Paul McCartney still getting feedback from John Lennon; Jimi Hendrix playing Woodstock but not “the Black Woodstock”; and Todd Haynes making The Velvet Underground. All in today’s Movie News Rundown.
Summer of Soul: On the latest Low Key podcast, we talk about Summer of Soul, which Roots drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson assembled from long-neglected footage from the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival concerts that featured a who’s who of spectacular musicians — including Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, B.B. King, Sly and the Family Stone and The 5th Dimension (pictured above). Here’s a clip featuring Gladys Knight and the Pips:
To me, it’s one of the only musical documentaries that captures the electricity of a live show, and one of the only concert movies that has the weight of a documentary. Listen to our discussion if you like:
Jimi Hendrix: Watching Summer of Soul, one of my only questions was why Jimi Hendrix didn’t play the Harlem Cultural Festival, which was later dubbed “The Black Woodstock.” Hendrix played Woodstock in summer 1969, just 100 miles from the Harlem shows — so was he invited to appear? The answer, according to Questlove, is no: He was considered too radical.
Paul McCartney: Margeaux Sippell wrote this terrific piece about how Paul McCartney is still getting feedback from John Lennon, after all these years. The new doc McCartney 3,2,1 includes Rick Rubin sharing Lennon’s opinion of McCartney’s bass playing. Sir Paul’s reaction: “That’s beautiful.”
After Hours: Todd Haynes has made a documentary about the Velvet Underground and the scene that spawned the band that looks like a film that would be project behind them as they played for junkies and criminals at Andy Warhol’s Factory in 1969. Which is to say this looks fantastic. The film just premiered at Cannes and comes to theaters and Apple TV+ on Oct. 15.
Legal Requirement: It says here that anytime anyone mentions the Velvet Underground we’re also legally required to mention this quote from Brian Eno: “The first Velvet Underground record sold only 30,000 copies in its first five years [but] everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.”
Non-Musical News: Nah, let’s keep it all musical today. Here’s Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock.
Main image: The 5th Dimension performing at the Harlem Cultural Festival in 1969, featured in the documentary Summer of Soul. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.