Aug. 9, 2021

Faithspotting "Summer of Soul"


Kenny and Mike discuss the Hulu film Summer of Soul and spot faith elements presented in the documentary of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. Summer of Soul is a documentary of the Harlem Cultural Festival held over 6 weekends at Mount Morris Park...

Kenny and Mike discuss the Hulu film Summer of Soul and spot faith elements presented in the documentary of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. Summer of Soul is a documentary of the Harlem Cultural Festival held over 6 weekends at Mount Morris Park during the Summer of 1969. Using 40 hours of footage and interviews with participants and attendees Ahmir Khalib Questlove Thompson directed and produced Summer of Soul.

Faith Elements Spotted:

Story and history are foundational elements in establishing and developing faith as they create and build identity and community. Erasing story and history serves to weaking identity and damage or destroy community. Music tells as well as shapes story, offers shared experiences which bind individuals and isolated groups into communities through which love and care is shared and witnessed.

The Diverse Nature of God's Kingdom.  John 14:2. The "House"/Kingdom of God is not made up of one room and experience, but many. The diversity of people working together, Sly and the Family Stone, the Mayor with the organizers, the Black and Latin communities in Harlem. The Lyrics of Everyday People.. "We have to live together."

The New Creation initiated through the birth of Jesus offers light in the midst of the failures of the flesh and world. Faith in the new age of God's Kingdom allows one to have hope and allow the light of the Son to shine in the midst of darkness. John 1:1-5, 16-18.

The hope and healing power of Gospel music. 


Kenny: I'm Kenny, Dickson

Mike:  and I'm mike Hatch,

Kenny: Welcome to Faith Spotting.

Audio Clip:  Gladys Knight speaking and singing “I Heard It Through The Grapevine.”

Mike: There’s a clip from Summer of Soul: Or when the revolution cannot be televised. I'm mike Hatch,

Kenny: I am Kenny Dickson.

Mike: And this is Faithspotting. And yes, that is the full name of the movie Kenny. Most people are calling it Summer of Soul, but it is that full name.

Kenny: and the full name. And it's the second half of the name. That probably makes it most important

Mike: to say the least. I'm gonna get right into it, Kenny, I love this. It was such a great movie.

Kenny: It is great in every way that you can imagine, the artists, the production value, the sound, the, look, the feel, the message, it is all there.

Mike: I’ve been on the documentary kick lately. I've been watching iconic movies. I forgot the name of it on Netflix. Some Disney sort of documentaries because they do a great job with their documentaries. This one just blew it out of the water. It was just so well done. The restoration of this. It was, you could tell that there was an enormous amount of love and time and passion that went into the restoration. From the picture, that was just actually from what I understand. I think it was recorded on videotape at that time, the highest, highest quality. It looked great. Sound incredible mix, just me being the audio guy that I am. The person that was mixing it at the event itself. They knew what they were doing because it came across, not to get too geeky about the audio, but usually with audio at a particular event, especially at that point you really didn't have an opportunity to record it in a way where you could control the levels of certain things after the event. So pretty much the mix

Kenny: The post-production value was limited.

Mike: From what I can tell, because at the end of the movie, you see the cases that hold the videotapes and hold the audio when I was going. I don't think that they did like a big master audio where they could adjust the levels afterwards. I think when they were mixing it there at the event, that was the mics. So just knowing the person that was there that was doing the mix, they just did such a great job, huge props to Questlove by the way my gosh putting this together.

Kenny: He’s the one, he was the one that spearheaded, directed it, produced it, he was the executive producer too. It was interesting. They talked about, I guess the person who was more of the overall director, technical director, but he was talking about at least for visuals, we have to have the stage facing west so you can get the light.

Mike: So basically the sun would act as your spotlight,

Kenny: As your key light.

Mike: That's exactly right.

Kenny: You've got the dates. So, it was a festival that's held through the summer of 1969.

Mike: So here's how it went. It's Harlem's Mount Morris Park and they held it on Sundays at three p.m. From June 29 through August 24, 1969. So these are basically six free concerts, total of about 300,000 people that went to this. And I'm sure there were a lot of people that went back. Lord knows I've gone back again and again to see who was playing the next week. But we know what was happening about 100 miles away. It was Woodstock. Now, that was happening august 15 through the 18th, 1969 as well. So, going back and forth between these two festivals, Harlem Cultural Festival in Woodstock, what would you choose?

Kenny: Harlem, easily, in a heartbeat.

Mike: Okay, so I like to play the game of sitting there and remembering what it must have been like. I wasn't even born at this point when these two things were happening. If I could go back in time, if I could go with doc and Marty and get in the DeLorean and go back in time, here's what I think I would have done because the Harlem Cultural festivals, some of my favorite artists that were there, the fifth dimension, Mahalia Jackson, the staple singers, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and the pips, B B King Nina Simone, my favorite, which we'll talk, I'm sure here in a second sly and the family stone now on the flip side Woodstock, some of my favorites, Richie Havens, Arlo, Guthrie, Joan Baez, Santana, grateful, dead CCR Janis, Joplin, Sly and The Family Stone again, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Joe Cocker, The Band, Blood, Sweat and Tears. Crosby Stills and Nash, Jimi, Hendrix.

Kenny: Amazing lineup for both. But the main reason is having looked at this now 50 years later and then watching the Woodstock movie which came out, we'll get into that. The people were having more fun in Harlem, having more fun with the music and so you know when you look at and there were a lot of cutaways, the people were engaged, they were clapping, they were involved, they were with it, they were with each other, being with the singer in comparison to to Woodstock. Or at least again, from what I've seen, what I can remember seeing from the film. It was the people were having fun, but the music was this sort of background and and it was their reason to come was not really for the music, but it was to be a part of an event, and sort of a commune I've described. Again, that's more parallel play, whereas Harlem was more engaged with the moment with the music, with each other.

MIke: People went for sex drugs and rock and roll to Woodstock and a concert broke out. It was the other way around at the Harlem Cultural Festival, There was decorum at the Harlem Cultural Festival. There was one point in the movie and I'm sure there were probably other points during the whole concert series where they had to do a little bit of, hey, you know, folks, watch what you're doing. There was only one point where the concert organizer, which we'll talk about in a little bit. He said, hey folks, please don't push each other. I mean just simple pushing well, they listened.

Kenny: I think that was for Sly. And then and they talked about, you know, the one guy talks about just because you, you introduced Sly, doesn't mean he's there and it doesn't mean and then so that you sort of had that. But yeah, it was very well policed. It was, you know, they were there again to enjoy one another, but to be with the music and maybe they just got a little restless at times for the new act.

Mike: I mean, it's, it's understandable. It's like that any concert. I mean, you're you're going to one of the concerts. It was interesting because we decided that we would talk about this movie this weekend, this weekend, as we're recording. This is the 30th anniversary of Lollapalooza and I went to Lollapalooza. It was Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Ice Cube. Just in itself, it had it's almost cultural festival going on from weird things that were going around and the sub-stages to the Lollapalooza 93 which was held down at a airfield in Rhode Island. That was a big thing as well, where you had arrested development and my favorite was Rage Against the Machine. But again, very, very different from what we saw here in the Harlem Cultural Festival. It was just it's so well organized. And they even talked about in the movie where Harlem was not doing well at this point. I mean it was just falling apart. But the people that went to this represented the good people of Harlem where you had families who had hard working people that yeah, they just happen to be African American, they happen to be black, or whatever.

Kenny: Or Hispanic.

Mike: Absolutely.

Kenny: Well, the whole the whole city was, New York in the seventies was not New York now or at least before Covid. It was struggling all over and the part of Harlem was struggling even more than the other part. And again, the fact that, we talked about Tony Lawrence, he was the producer, and just the description of him is really somebody you would just like to meet and just somebody that had the audacity and the boldness and vision, you know, to put shows together and put this together and really just by force of personality, getting one person to sort of maybe think about committing and then leveraging that to say to another “well so and so is going to be here” and then in pulling all that together, without a fear of failure, without a fear of things falling apart, like ended up doing pretty much at Woodstock and by the grace of God, it wasn't a disaster on like, you know that grace wasn't at Altamont later in the year just to have that audacity.

Mike: And by the way, at Altamont, we lost a life because of

Kenny: the Hells Angels,

Mike: But who was the security at this?

Kenny: Oh, The Black Panthers.

Mike: I mean come on. It’s great. I love it.

Kenny: Yeah, yeah, yeah, And then they talked about the city maybe wanted to do this because it was a year after King's assassination and the writing that that that happened all over the country after that. So, you know, they were hoping to get through a summer. And typically, you can imagine summer in New York City with all that steel and concrete in those days when it is hot. You know, there's a lot there typically violent. So they were hoping that they have something that would allow steam, you know, to be vented or something to do. And, and certainly, you could tell by when they showed john Lindsay, the mayor, he was really into it. You know, I mean,

Mike: he was highly respected by the community, Tony Lawrence calling the

Kenny: Tony Lawrence called him the “Blue-eyed Soul Brother.” And it was, it really was a moment. The reason we're talking about it, I think, I mean, it isn’t  just the images in that. But the overriding power behind this is again, that it sat in a desk for 50 years. It was it was recorded to be shown. And even when the producer, not necessarily Tony Lawrence, but the people trying to sell it to the networks, not even when they changed it to the Black Woodstock. People didn't want to hear it and the networks didn't want to show it. And they didn't want to show this celebration of black culture and the sort of growing sense of black pride when in a very beautiful way, they wanted to show, they wanted to erase that. They wanted to erase that history. Chris Rock at the end of it. He has a couple of comments, but it struck me he said that nobody knew about this. We shouldn't be surprised about that. People have been erasing black history for years. Tack onto that the race massacre in Tulsa, that nobody knew about. Even people growing up in Tulsa going to schools. They never heard about it. And if by chance somebody did, oh, it was the race riot. It was the blacks that were rioting. And so, you know, not only did the whites of Tulsa and the state, you know, massacre a couple hundred people and and engage war on them. Then they blamed it on them for anybody who may have known. What else is out there. You wonder of black history of contributions to the world that we don't know about.

Mike: It's a travesty that it was sitting collecting dust in a desk in a basement. It's just, it's, it's just a travesty. You need to see this, even if you're just sort of borderline into funk and soul, it's just so incredibly well done. And it truly was a cultural festival. You heard the list of the people that played there, that's just scratching the surface. I mean, you had, one of my favorites was Moms Mabley. She had this quote on the day that the astronauts landed on the moon. Check this out

Audio Clip: A man done gone to the moon. I went as fer as Baltimore with them, then I got off.

Mike: okay. The other big part of this Harlem cultural festival, which we alluded to Sly and the Family Stone, I mean, come on. When I was a kid, my grandmother used to say, you're sitting there at the dinner table, everybody's eating and table starts to shake a little bit. She goes, all right. Who's motor is running? And it's, it's like when your, your leg is shaking, it's just sort of a nervous tick. You have to be a robot not to sit there. Watch that set from sly and the family stone in this movie and not move. It was so incredible to watch.

Audio Clip: “The energy was indescribable, more than exciting.”  Band singing “Everyday People”

Mike: And we're talking about cultural diversity.

Kenny: Well, look at the band, you land it surprised even the people that were there

Mike: Seriously people and you saw reactions in the film. You're like um that drummers white, what's going on with that? And it was a female African American playing the trumpet and she was also one of the ones who was singing the course. It was everyday people you'd hear and see her singing the chorus and the second after she would switch right close,

Kenny: And hit that note. Yeah. Oh my God, Yeah, that captures and getting into the faith element. There's a lot of things and they had a gospel week. And so specifically, you know, there were things and sharing and, and we've talked a little bit about this and when we did the Black Church, the power of music to the black church, into the black people, this diversity of people. And so the words that came to my mind or the, or the scripture was from John 14 when Jesus says in my father's house, there are many rooms. It's not just one big room for everybody, but everybody's in one house. And yet they have their rooms. They have their, who they are, they have their, their culture, they have their certainly race, they have their gender. Now they have their, you know, sexual identity. And we all get along, and who wants to live in a house with one big room. You want to have variety. You want to have differences.

Kenny: It is diversity. You know, you look at things in nature. The more diverse animal population is, the more diverse. Uh, the more we try to homogenize, you know, crops, the more they're susceptible to things. So it's, you know, literally diversity helps strengthen life and it makes life better. And so, so with with Sly, it literally was the family we need to be. You had two white guys and then, yeah, I think the thing that, I mean it's surprising, I think to the some of the folks and the guy that they interviewed that maybe they had some white people, but the drummer, of all people,

Mike: He was unbelievable. 

Kenny: I think, I think the man said we didn't know that he could do, he's not supposed to be able to do that. You know, just a moment of, again, this is what we're supposed to be,  this is what God wants us to be.

Mike: And what I loved about this that Questlove, not only being a musician, but completely and totally proving the fact that he could put together one heck of a documentary. I loved that he showed the reactions of people watching.

Kenny: Yes, Yes,Yes, absolutely.

Mike: So you're sitting there and you're watching the movie yourself and your going, even just yourself watching this footage of this concert that no one had seen and just yourself, you're going, oh my gosh! But then Questlove cuts to the people that were there that either played there like Marilyn McKoo in the Fifth Dimension, she's watching it with her husband, another person that was there at the concert. Just watching their reaction, watching The movie. They are instantly taken back to 1969 and one especially I think was the last part of the, of the movie with one of the folks that went to the concert. He just started getting emotional. It was incredible.

Kenny: He was the one yeah, that that was doing that. He went as a child and and Meryl McKoo she was getting teary eyed and actually that story and I've heard, and I looked into a little bit more but the whole story about how they came to to sing Aquarius. Some say it's yeah, some say it may be is overblown or or something but you know how he he left his wallet in a cab and somebody found it and called him and wouldn't take money but I went to see their show and then he invited and it's interesting. I you know, I've always, you know, I've grown up with that again, I love that. I remember seeing them on the Ed Sullivan show and other things and just just the outfits of the time and the way they moved and and that song. But if you think about it, Aquarius begins here is the first number where flesh failures is the last song and it has the chorus of Let the Sunshine. And if you look at it in the context of that show, it is a very you know, they're showing the loss of one of the people, depending whether you're watching a movie or you're watching the stage play, which one it is who got killed in Vietnam. They're looking at in the movie, they're looking out at Arlington National Cemetery with all those tombstones and they show Burger’s. I think it was somebody else in the in the play. So it's a very heavy piece and then so there, you know, in the in the beginning of that song their talking about all the failures of our flesh. But yet somehow in the midst of that we're called to let the Sun shine.

Audio Clip “Let The Sun Shine In.

Yeah. New. So when you bring that, so you have Aquarius and this is a new age. Whether or not you're you're into new age stuff with crystal revelation. I wouldn't accept that as a Christian, but I do accept new Gospel revelation and this is the dawning of a new time. And when Christ came into the world is the dawning of a new age, a new life. And in that life, what we're supposed to be able to do is even in the midst of our difficulty, even the midst of our struggles let the Son shine, SON shine. I had never really thought, I just thought it was all one song for the longest time that uh oh well then they do it. But there's a neat story with that. And so just to watch them sing that and to hear them. And it was interesting that that even they got pushed back. I don't know if it was from the white community or both, but you know, people thought they were white.

Mike: Exactly.

Kenny: And that they didn't sound black enough and and in Maryland, who said, what, what's a black sound? What does black sound like? And you know, you don't want to go down that road. And so you know, there's, we all have maybe our judging of others. And and again this cultural revolution that cultural is diverse challenges that that notion in us. And and if you open your mind and you allow even and you were saying even if you don't like funk and you don't like soul, you like gospel. Do you know that gospel part? Mahalia Jackson? Al Sharpton has a neat quote about her impact.

Audio Clip: (Al Shaprton) The Gospel was more than religious. Gospel was the therapy for the stress and pressure of being black in America. We didn't go to a psychiatrist. We didn't go lay on the couch. We didn't know anything about therapist. We knew Mahalia Jackson. (Mahalia singing) Lord take my heart.

Kenny: They didn't have psychiatry. They didn't have counseling, but they had Mahalia.

Mike: Yeah. And you know something, there's a lot going on right now with Aretha Franklin. You know, there's a new movie coming out, Jennifer Hudson might have actually been another movie as well on Hulu. And I know there's another documentary after seeing this film and I hopefully I won't get you know, struck by the queen of soul up in heaven after seeing Mahalia Jackson. oh my God will be on the hill, you too, is there Okay? I didn't realize that, but just to hear her sing, oh my goodness, she's just as good if not even better.

Kenny: And she, when she and they had the staple daughter, uh I forgot, I forgot which one it was came up and then she goes, so it was during, during Gospel Day and Jesse Jackson had a wonderful prayer, you know, it doesn't matter what God you worship and he listed all that, you know, we're here together, again, in my father's house, there are many rooms, and then he called on them to sing “Precious Lord.”

Mike: And Mahalia wasn't feeling too well. So the staple singer, she sang for a while, but then Mahalia came out.

Kenny: Yeah, but the way she Miss Mahalia came and said, child, Miss Mahalia’s, not feeling too good. I want you to help me sing.” And she said yes mam.

Mike: Of course you got it.

Kenny: I didn't know um the the saxophone player in in the in that band was the last person King talked to I had not heard.

Mike: that's right.

Kenny: Sharpton, you know I mean it was it was well known because he said all of us, we we revered him because he was the last and the last thing he was talking about was that song. And then and then Jackson brings that you know, he didn't die a man crying, he died a man reaching out for his God's hand. That new would be there just there literally is something for everybody. And if you don't think there's something for you, you need to watch it and you will find something.

Mike: and wait a minute. It's like it's like the weather in New England, you don't like it, wait you wait a minute, There's something for everyone.

Kenny: They had one, I guess one of the concerts, they really focused on the Spanish Harlem and so they brought in Ray Barreto who, and again we sort of talked about this on In the Heights, uh they had Sheila E talking about that and, and she of course, was with Prince, just what that Latin Puerto Rican music was like and, and what Harlem was like, then everybody outside because it's warm because it's too hot to stay inside and all this. You close your eyes, imagine you walk, (I'm closing my eyes now,) you imagine you're walking down the street in Harlem, you hear all these music and drums and people and probably smelling food cooking out, It was amazing. But she talked about the drum being this this elemental, probably the first instrument. And and there's, we respond to beats, whether it's a Latin beat or a European beat or a Black beat and we can all celebrate and share that.

Mike: great interviews to like uh Lin-Manuel Maranda, he was interviewed, we concluded it was his father, that he was within the interview and just the effect that he talked about that this had on the community, and what the concert represented for the community

Kenny: Again coming together. And then of course, him talking about music is our story, lin Manuel saying that and it is and it's all of our story and it reflects our struggle and then at at the end, least at the end of the film. And I guess towards the end of the concert, uh Nina Simone's coming out sharing and singing, and for me is probably one of the more powerful parts is when she was singing, young, gifted and black. And as she's singing it, they cut to a quote or story of Charlene Hunter-Gault who was the New York Times reporter who first used the word “black.” She was also the first uh woman, her and a friend of hers to integrate the University of Georgia and she talked about how many, you know Simone helped her when she was getting pushed back from that. And when they were showing that they were showing the, the faces of, of children in that in the crowd and it's a very, very, very powerful.

Mike: and again, the Harlem was going through a tough time, but one of the things you see highlighted in the film was that people that attended this, it was hodgepodge of everyone working class people, families. It was almost a familial kind of festival. And it really opened my eyes to what Woodstock was compared to this Harlem Cultural Festival. Like you mentioned, I didn't know anything about Nina Simone, so I learned a lot about her lead singer of the temptations. He was another one.

Kenny: Well, yeah, he had just left David Ruffin singing My Girl. And first of all, he looked like he was eight ft tall. He's very he's only I look he's only 63 I mean, but he looked he's so, so thin and standing there and just looking cool is all and and the last note he hits, I won't even try it because I'll hurt myself. And he holds it for 10 seconds. It's really high, hyper, falsetto. There's just moment after, moment after moment of all of these. And and and it was interesting also they talked with Stevie wonder in in this sort of

Mike: another amazing act.

Kenny: Amazing, amazing act and, and where he went from that and you know, so they went forward a little bit in each of these. And also it was interesting how many of the, of the artists, and again we mentioned it and looked at the Black Church, started out singing in the Black Church, including Sly and the others and you could see them using that training in that grounding and that being able to connect with people uh, you know, which is the core of the Black Music in the Black Church. For me, the coolest thing. And when he did it, nobody could spin around and look cooler, looking backwards and slide. When he first spun around. It was looking at that Drummer oh, it was

Mike: It was something to watch.

Kenny: It was just, it is a treasure. It's sinful that we have not had it for 50 years, but we have it now. Everybody needs to see this. No, everybody needs to experience the summer of Soul.


Faithspotting Ending: Faithspotting is a production of Crossroads Faith and film. Some materials, not Property of Faith Spotting, but utilizing the Fair use guidelines were used in this episode.  And thank you so much for listening. We'll catch you next week.