Summer of Soul Review By Asha St. Louis

“Summer of Soul” What is it?

The Summer of Soul Movie was about the Harlem Music Festival that took place in 1969 in Harlem, New York. The festival went on for 6 weeks, specifically every Sunday beginning June 29 and ending August 24, 1969 hosted by Tony Lawrence in Mount Morris Park and had an attendance of over 300,000 people. All 6 weeks of the festival were filmed but all after the festival ended the footage stayed in a basement for 50 years, because they felt like it was not an important part of history. This festival was very important because it was something that brought the black community together during the time where racial injustice was very high in America. It was a space where black people could be non apologetically black and enjoy music by black Artist and just being happy.  Even though the Harlem music festival had an amazing impact on the black community it was still very hard for them to pull off this festival so extravagantly but safely at the same time. Firstly the reason why it took place on every Sunday over 6 weeks is because they had to have the festival during the day. Why? because the production crew had barely any money so they had to have it during the day in order for the audience to see the stage because it had no lights and all they had was the sun. They were also denied security during most of the festival, and due to the large turn out of people they couldn’t have that. So because of the lack of security the black panthers came to the festival and offered their services.

Who and What kind of music was performed at the Harlem music festival?

The Harlem music festival had a wide range of black artist that performed multiple different genres during the 6 week time period. Black Artist such as Stevie Wonder, Sly and the Family Stone, Nina Simone, B.B. King, the Staple Singers, the 5th Dimension, David Ruffin, Mahalia Jackson and Gladys Knight and the Pips, Ray Barretto, Charlie Watkins, Evelyn Hawkins, Mango Santamaria and more performed their hit songs and put on an amazing show for the audience. They had Gospel songs performed such as “Oh Happy Day”, “Help Me Jesus”, and “Wrapped, Tied, and Tangled” that was sung by Evelyn Hawkins, a genre that was not only created by black people but it also brung us together for hundreds of years. They also had R&B music performed such at the song Shoo-Bee-Doo-Bee-Doo-Da-Day” by Stevie Wonder which was another black dominated genre of music. They also had Soul, Latin, Jazz, blues and multiple other genres of music were performed during this festival as well.

My impression/ review of the Summer of Soul Movie 

I personally loved and enjoyed watching every last minute of this movie. Music has always been something that brought black people together during times of struggle and need, started back in slavery times where we would sing negro spirituals to bring us closer to God and give us hope for a better future.  Seeing how this music festival brought the black community together shows how important music is to black culture, Also seeing how this same festival brought so many upcoming black Artist to mainstream media shows the impact this whole festival had. The Harlem music festival in 1969 reminds me so much of our modern day black festivals such as Rolling Loud, AfroPunk and so much more. The festival was such an important part of history and had a huge impact on the African American community and our music. 

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