…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised.
Questlove’s spectacular feature documentary about the legendary 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival is packed with historic musical moments. The film includes interviews with people who performed at the festival and those who attended. One man even cries as he remembers the power of seeing so many Black people in one place, celebrating Black culture.
The Harlem Cultural Festival consisted of six concerts that took place between June 29 and August 24, 1969, in New York’s Marcus Garvey Park (at the time, Mount Morris Park). Making the film of special interest to WNC residents, two of the performers, Nina Simone and Gladys Knight, have ties to the Asheville area: Ms. Simone grew up in Tryon, and Ms. Knight lives in Fairview with her husband, a native of Canton in Haywood County.
Summer Of Soul moves us with never-before-seen footage of an epic event that celebrated Black history, culture, and fashion and over its two-month duration attracted an astounding total audience of 300,000.
Watch 19-year-old Stevie Wonder whip out two amazing solos, one on drums and one on the keyboard. The Fifth Dimension’s harmonies soar on “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In.” Gladys Knight and the Pips sing “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” and The Edwin Hawkins Singers bring us pure joy with “Oh, Happy Day.” You’ll sing along as Sly and the Family Stone perform their sweet and unifying “Everyday People,” and Nina Simone reminds us all that we are young, gifted, and Black.
“The fact that 40 hours of this footage was kept from the public is living proof that revisionist history exists,” says Questlove. “I want to make sure black erasure doesn’t happen during my lifetime … and the film was an opportunity to work towards that cause.”
Summer Of Soul shines a light on the importance of history to our spiritual well-being and stands as a testament to the healing power of music during times of unrest, both past and present. The film includes never-before-seen concert performances by Stevie Wonder, Tryon, NC native Nina Simone, Sly and the Family Stone, the Staple Singers, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Mahalia Jackson, B.B. King, The 5th Dimension, and many others.