Fans of soul music of the sixties and seventies will thank Miramax Films for bringing this work to the screen. Mogul Harvey Weinstein, who amasses a number of Oscars each year, including Chicago for 2002 Best Picture, could have made a lot more money with other films. I suspect he loves this music as much as I do, and he appears briefly in the movie.
Legends Jerry Butler, Wilson Pickett, Sam Moore of Sam & Dave, Mary Wilson of the Supremes, Isaac Hayes, the Chilites (all original members) and Carla Thomas are seen as they are now in their early sixties. This picture was made in 1999, and Rufus Thomas, who appears in the film, passed away in 2001 at 84. They perform their vintage hit songs, are interviewed, and reminisce about their early days with Stax Records, Motown's competitor. All are doing well, although they've gained weight. Jerry Butler, the Iceman, sings his classics: the title song and For Your Precious Love. We learn he returned to college in his fifties, and is now a Commissioner in Chicago. Hayes (Shaft) and Butler retain their strong, rich voices. We're also treated to a cameo archive of Otis Redding.
This film reminds me of its close relative, Standing in the Shadow of Motown. That work is richer in exploring the lives of cast members, and elicits from them more heartfelt emotions of what it was like socially, politically and musically to grow up in Detroit in the 1960s. The locale here is Memphis. That movie, however, focuses less on the hit singers, but on the outstanding back-up band, the Funk Brothers. This show features more songs by original artists, but shorter versions of each, whereas Standing includes younger performers doing the complete soundtrack of just a few Motown classics like Heat Wave. Each picture powerfully recreates that wonderful era of soul music in our own salad days.
If there's a film maker who wants to complete the trilogy, he could focus next on the Philadelphia sound of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Billy Paul, Archie Bell and the Drells, MFSB, the O'Jays, Stylistics, Three Degrees, Lou Rawls, etc. I'm waiting eagerly.