I watched Wattstax today for the very first time. Now, I’m burying myself in Stax music, and totally in a 70’s funk / soul / R&B frame of mind. What a film!

Wattstax was a music festival that took place at the L.A. Coliseum in August of 1972. Organized by the Memphis-based Stax record label to commemorate the 7th anniversary of the Watts riots, it featured Stax artists like Isaac Hayes, Rufus Thomas, the Bar-Kays, the Staples Singers, Luther Ingram, and a lot of others.

The film features music footage interspersed with interviews of Watts residents, a pre-‘Love Boat’ Ted Lange (Issac!), and Richard Prior, who all talk frankly about being Black in 1972 America.

By far the highlights for me were this Rufus Thomas performance of “Do the Funky Chicken”, and this, the Bar-Kays’ “Son of Shaft”. You just have to love the style of the times. And just check out how the Bar-Kays hit the stage. Now that’s showmanship! I guess the band wanted to come on to the field in a chariot, but that was rejected at the last minute. Well, the outfits stayed. S-t-y-l-e.

It really doesn’t get any better than this….

If you want a new (or renewed) appreciation for 70’s soul & the Stax label, as well as a fascinating document of the early 1970’s L.A. Black community, check out this film.

Thanks Gonzo for the recommendation!

By the way, if anyone can recommend any other good films / concert videos that document this era of 70’s soul, funk, and R&B, please drop a comment below. I want more!

Amazon: Wattstax (30th Anniversary Special Edition)


  • Michael

    Pete, if you have VH1 Classic / VH1 Soul check for a program called “Soul Deep” it’s a great documentary on the roots of soul right up and through the 70’s. I myself am going to have to check out “Wattstax”…

  • Skittles

    I just watched The Stax Records Story last weekend and I highly recommend. Netflix has it, if you’re a member. Also, somewhat related…The Atlantic Records Story: The House That Ahmet Built is pretty good, too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.