Cherishing the Sweet Sounds of Soul Farai Chideya marks the 50th anniversary of Stax Records with her staff song pick of the week — Isaac Hayes' performance of Soulsville from the 1972 documentary, Wattstax.

Cherishing the Sweet Sounds of Soul

Cherishing the Sweet Sounds of Soul

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Farai Chideya marks the 50th anniversary of Stax Records with her staff song pick of the week — Isaac Hayes' performance of Soulsville from the 1972 documentary, Wattstax.

Singer Isaac Hayes performs at the Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre 36th Anniversary Gala. razer Harrison/Getty Images for Church of Scientology hide caption

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razer Harrison/Getty Images for Church of Scientology


From one black arts festival to another, though, this one is a little different, and it's my staff's song pick of the week.

Tonight, I'm seeing Isaac Hayes at the Hollywood Bowl here in California. Now, I was already excited to see Hayes since I've been listening to his music ever since I got my hands on my mom's A-track of "Shaft."

But let me tell you what really sold me on tonight's show. It's another show, "Wattstax," that happened back in 1972. The show was organized to commemorate what was then the seventh anniversary of the Watts riots and they put it all on film. I just watched the movie "Wattstax" the other day, and it's one of these magical glimpses of what it's like to be black in America.

(Soundbite of documentary "Wattstax")

Mr. RICHRAD PRYOR (Actor): All of us has something to say but some are never heard. Over seven years ago, the people of Watts stood together and demanded to be heard. In the Los Angeles Coliseum, over 100,000 black people came together to commemorate that moment in American history. This is a film of that experience and what some of the people have to say.

CHIDEYA: That was Richard Pryor. He's just one of the many national and community voices that offers up commentary throughout "Wattstax." Some of it is funny, some of it's enlightening, and all of it is buffered by the music.

(Soundbite of song "Soulville")

Mr. ISAAC HAYES (Singer): (Singing) Any kind of job is hard to find, that means an increase in the welfare line. The crime rate is rising too, if you are hungry, what would you do? The rent is two months past due, in a building that's falling apart. Little black boy needs a pair of shoes, and this is only a part of…

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Soulsville.

CHIDEYA: That was "Soulsville" by Isaac Hayes. Now, he does some crazy things in the show. He does this little striptease down to his bare-oiled chest that sends the crowd wild. But with "Soulsville," he really takes it down a notch, telling us what it's like to build a community in the face of despair.

(Soundbite of song "Soulville")

Mr. HAYES: (Singing) Just trying to ditch reality, by getting so high, only to find out, that you can never touch the sky, because your roots are in…

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Soulsville.

CHIDEYA: One of the things I love about this movie and I love about Isaac Hayes' performance is that it really does capture a moment in time. "Wattstax," the movie and "Wattstax" the concert were names not only for the California city where the show went down but also for Isaac Hayes' personal label, Stax Records.

Tonight, at the Hollywood Bowl, I can't wait to help a few thousand other people celebrate the 50th anniversary of Stax Records. I salute Isaac Hayes and the people of Watts, California, who put together a concert that will be remembered by Americans for years to come.

(Soundbite of song "Soulville")

Mr. HAYES: (Singing) All this misery that we have in…

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Soulsville.

Mr. HAYES: (Singing) Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Mr. HAYES: And I thank you for your tolerance and your patience and your cooperation because we know this whole occasion is for a worthy cause. The good master help him that helped themselves, right on.

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