Melvin Van Peebles

Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song

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Melvin Van Peebles' Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song was an important film that paved the way for black filmmakers in American cinema in general, and in the 1970s blaxploitation genre in particular. Van Peebles hasn't been nearly as well known as a musician as he has a filmmaker, but he did compose the soundtrack, which was performed by Earth, Wind & Fire, who had then just released their first album. Heard on its own, the soundtrack, unlike Superfly or Shaft, is not a significant musical achievement. It's serviceable period funk-soul, both instrumental and vocal, sprinkled with some dialog from the film, although it did make number 13 on the soul album charts. "Hoppin' John" is an obvious James Brown-inspired tune, though sung with considerably less heat than Brown himself would have mustered. "Come On Feet Do Your Thing" is the cut most like Van Peebles' pre-rap excursions on A&M Records, which is unsurprising, as he had already recorded it on his A&M album Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death. Sweet Sweetback's has been reissued as one disc of the two-CD release The Melvin Van Peebles Collection, which also includes the 1972 original cast recording of Don't Play Us Cheap, the Broadway production (originally a film) that Van Peebles staged, and for which he also composed the music.

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