Funky Soundtracks


"Stickin' it to 'The Man' like no other brother can..."

"Hotter'n 'Coffy,' meaner'n 'Foxy Brown,' Pam Grier is Sheba, Baby--Queen of the Private Eyes"

"On the streets or on the sheets, he's a Savage!"

"'Dolemite' is my name, and f***in' up muthaf***as is my game."

The sensational term blaxploitation has been applied equally to milestones in Afro-American movie-making as well as to camp, "kung-fu" action romps set in the ghetto or Africa. Pam Grier...Dolemite..."Huggy Bear." pants...martial arts...guns...Black-Power leather trenchcoats. Even "Blacula" has been shown on the African Heritage Movie Network (thank you!), but "Legend of Dolemite" may never be. Probably more enduring than the films themselves are the soundtracks, many of which are inspired funk classics.

Funky soundtracks, mostly from 1970 to 1975, involve a wide range of top soul and soul-jazz artists such as Charles Earland, Monk Higgins, J.J. Johnson, Grant Green, Donald Byrd, James Brown, and even Rudy Ray Moore. (Johnny Pate's released STs are three of the very best.) Moreover, there are great "covers" of funky-soundtrack tunes by Funk Inc., Reuben Wilson, Merl Saunders, Barbara Mason, and others. Some soundtracks are highly original "out jazz" or electronic excursions; some feature basic jazz, funk, or soul combos, and some are polluted with string sections. Some have Motown or Buddah soul hits, and many have extremely hip, funky instrumentals featuring "waka-waka" guitar, conga, and occasionally vibraslap (the "rattlesnake" effect).

Plenty of non-soundtrack albums, such as Monk Higgins' Little Mama, reflect the 1970s groove at least as well as the soundtracks. Conversely, plenty of would-be soundtracks are not really funky, particularly from the later 1970s. "Claudine" may be a great movie, but Gladys Knight & the Pips, who also did the soundtrack for "Pipe Dreams," never quite get into "Superfly" mode. Honorable mention: "Cooley High" (Motown hits plus a few short cuts), "Short Eyes" (Curtis Mayfield, 1977 prison flick), "Big Time" (Smokey Robinson, 1977).

Funky soundtracks may have run their course in a few short years, but hardcore fans can stake new territory in "brownsploitation," the equivalent (and usually weirder!) genre of films made in India and Pakistan. Look out, Avenging Disco Godfather, Shiva's got Christie Love!

Funky Soundtrack LPs

7William Arkush or uncredited: TNT Jackson; Roger Corman; 1974
8Roy Ayers: Coffy; Polydor PD-5048; 1973
8Badder Than Evil: Gordon's War; Buddah BDS-5137-ST; 1973 (Al Elias, Andy Badale, Horace Ott, Harvey Fuqua, New Birth, Barbara Mason, Sister Goose & the Ducklings)
7Blowfly: Blowfly at the Movies; Weird World WW-2024 (party-rap spoofs of ST classics)
7Ed Bogas & Ray Shanklin: Black Girl; Fantasy 9420; 1972 (w/Merl Saunders, Betty Everett, Sonny Stitt..)
7James Brown/Fred Wesley: Black Caesar; Polydor PD-6014; 1973
8James Brown/Fred Wesley: Slaughter's Big Rip-Off; Polydor PD-6015; 1973
Roy Budd/Three Degrees: Diamond Shaft; Bradleys (also as Diamonds)
Solomon Burke: Cool Breeze; MGM I-SE-35; 1972
Jerry Butler/Jerry Peters: Melinda; Pride
6Donald Byrd/The Blackbyrds: Cornbread, Earl, and Me; Fantasy F-9483; 1975
7Vic Caesar: Bare Knuckles ST; Gucci G-303; 1977 (funky Moog/funk)
7Dennis Coffey & Luchi de Jesus: Black Belt Jones; Warner Bros. WS-7771; 1974
5Don Costa/Lou Rawls: The Soul of Nigger Charley; MGM 1-SE-46-ST; 1973
Bobby Davis Orchestra: Hit 'em Hard; Bobby Davis Enterprises BDE-100; 1972
7Nat Dove & the Devils: Petey Wheatstraw; Magic Disc MD-112; 1977
7Charles Earland: The Dynamite Brothers; Prestige P-10082; 1974/1973
6Ernie Fields, Jr.: Avenging Disco Godfather; [unreleased?]; 1977 (w/Rudy Ray Moore, Carol Speed)
8Friends of Distinction/Blood Hollins/Weldon Irvine/Zulema: Honey Baby, Honey Baby; RCA Victor APL-1-0994; 1975 (comp. Michael Tschudin/arr. Carl Maults-By)
6Marvin Gaye: Trouble Man; Motown/Tamla T-322-L; 1972
8Grant Green: The Final Come-Down; Blue Note BST-84415; 1972
Herbie Hancock: Death Wish; Columbia PC-33199; 1974
5Donny Hathaway/Quincy Jones: Come Back Charleston Blue; Atlantic/Atco SD-7010; 1972
5Isaac Hayes: Shaft; Stax/Enterprise ENS-2-5002; 1971
5Isaac Hayes: The Men; Stax/Enterprise
5Isaac Hayes/The Movement: Tough Guys (from "Three Tough Guys"); Stax/Enterprise ENS-7504; 1974
6Isaac Hayes: Truck Turner; Stax/Enterprise ENS-2-7507; 1974 (2-LP; good for "Breakthrough")
7Monk Higgins/Alex Brown/Barbara Mason: Sheba, Baby; Buddah BDS-5634-ST; 1975
7Willie Hutch: The Mack; Motown M-766-L; 1973
7Willie Hutch: Foxy Brown; Motown M-811; 1974
7The Impressions: Three the Hard Way; Buddah/Curtom CRS-8602-ST; 1974
6Luchi de Jesus: Detroit 9000; 1973
8Luchi de Jesus: Friday Foster; AIP; 1975 (w/Pam Grier, Eartha Kitt, Scatman Crothers, Yaphet Kotto, Ted Lange; ST released CD-only)
7J.J. Johnson/Bobby Womack: Across 110th Street; United Artists UAS-5225; 1972
7J.J. Johnson/Joe Simon: Cleopatra Jones; Warner Bros. BS-2719; 1973
J.J. Johnson: Willie Dynamite; MCA MCA-393; 1974
7Quincy Jones: $ ("Dollar"); Warner Bros./Reprise MS-2051; 1972
7Quincy Jones: The Lost Man; Uni 73060; 1970/1969
7Don Julian: Savage!; Money MS-1109; 1973
9Don Julian & the Larks: Shorty the Pimp; Money (45 only, other ST cuts appear on 2 LPs)
5Hubert Laws Group: A Hero Ain't Nothin' But a Sandwich; Columbia 35046; 1978 (jazz)
6William Loose & William A. Hardcastle: The Big Bird Cage; AIP; 1972 (Roger Corman women-in-prison flick w/Pam Grier; great exotic but probably unreleased ST)
5Galt MacDermot: Cotton Comes to Harlem; United Artists UAS-5211; 1970
5Taj Mahal: Brothers; Warner Bros. BS-3024; 1977/1976
5Soul Mann & the Brothers: "Shaft"--Music from the Movie; Pickwick SPC-3290 (single-LP interpretation of the ST by Sy Mann)
Bill Marx: Scream, Blacula, Scream (and other titles);; 1973
9Curtis Mayfield: Superfly; Buddah/Curtom CRS-8014; 1972 (arr. cond. Johnny Pate)
Curtis Mayfield: Let's Do it Again; Curtom CU-5005; 1975
Curtis Mayfield: A Piece of the Action; Curtom CU-5019; 1977
6Rudy Ray Moore/Soul Rebellion Orchestra: Dolemite; Generation International LP-2501; 1975 (w/Arthur Wright, Ben Taylor, Mary Love)
Rudy Ray Moore: The Human Tornado (Dolemite 2); 1976
Ohio Players: Mr. Mean
6Osibisa: Superfly T.N.T.; Buddah BDS-5136-ST; 1973
6Gene Page/Hues Corporation/The 21st Century Ltd.: Blacula ST; RCA Victor LSP-4806; 1972
8Johnny Pate/Four Tops: Shaft in Africa; ABC ABCX-793; 1973
8Johnny Pate: Brother on the Run; Perception PLP-45; 1973
N/AJohnny Pate: Bucktown; 1975 (unreleased)
5Gordon Parks: Shaft's Big Score; MGM 1-SE-36-ST; 1972
7Melvin Van Peebles/Brer Soul/Earth, Wind & Fire: Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song -- an Opera; Stax STS-3001
3Melvin Van Peebles: Watermelon Man; 1970; Beverly Hills
5Melvin Van Peebles: Don't Play us Cheap; Stax STS-2-3006; 1972 (2-LP)
6Bernard Purdie: Lialeh; Bryan BRS-102; 1974
8Leonard Rosenman: Beneath the Planet of the Apes; Bell/Amos AAS-8001
7Roger Hamilton Spotts: Tongue; Chocolate Cities CCS-1000; 1975 (funk/sex/blues/Moog)
5Mavis Staples/Curtis Mayfield: A Piece of the Action; Curtom CU-5019; 1977
7Edwin Starr: Hell Up in Harlem; Motown M-802V1; 1974 (w/Dennis Coffey, Mike Melvoin..)
5The Superdudes: Super Bad!; Pickwick SPC-3354; (jacket: "Soul Makossa Played & Sung by the Ghana Soul Explosion!"; covers of "Superfly T.N.T." & "Are You Man Enough?" from "Shaft in Africa")
5Booker T. & the MGs: Uptight; Stax STS-2006
Coleridge Taylor-Perkinson: The Education of Sonny Carson; Paramount PAS-1045; 1974
Johnnie Taylor: Disco 9000 (aka Fass Black)
Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee: Book of Numbers; Brut 6002-ST
5Barry White/Gene Page: Together Brothers; 20th Century Records ST-101; 1974
5Various: Black Fist; GRT/Happy Fox HF-1101; 1977 (Sam & Jus' Us, Velvet Fire, Paul Humphrey, Jesse James)
3Various: Shaftman; Funky Finger 67-71 (compilation/spoof)
9Various: Super Bad Super Black--Can Ya'll Dig That?; Waste Management/Black Label WM-3091 (2-LP compilation of radio spots for 54 STs)

Funky Soundtrack 45s

6The Bar-Kays: Son of Shaft/Sang & Dance; Volt VOA-4073 (from Do You See What I See)
Brinkley & Parker: Don't Get Fooled by the Pander Man/Pander Man; Darnel DA-1111; 1974 (not a ST, but sounds like one)
Dennis Coffey: Theme from Black Belt Jones; Warner Bros.
9Don Julian & the Larks: Shorty the Pimp Parts 1 & 2; Jerk 202 (Money M-607; 45 only, other ST cuts appear on 2 LPs)
7Joe Simon & the Mainstreeters: Theme from Cleopatra Jones/Joe Simon: Who was that Lady; Polydor/Spring SPR-138; 1973
7Isaac Hayes: Theme from Shaft/Theme from The Men (instrumental); Stax/Enterprise; 1977
Stargard: Which Way Is Up
8Uncredited: Come Back Charleston Blue (3 versions); Warner Bros. W-Blue (promo; radio spots for the film)
8Uncredited: Three Tough Guys (2 versions); Paramount WLC-1586 (promo; radio spots for the film)

Possible STs, Artist Unknown

ST LP (if any) info wanted -- Artist: Title; Label Catalog#; Year

Bitter-Sweet Love (a.k.a. It Won't Rub Off, Baby)
The Black Gestapo; 1975
Black Mama, White Mama
The Devil's Express; 1975
Dynamite Chicken/Black Brigade
Farewell Uncle Tom; 1971
Fight for Your Life; 1977
Joshua, the Black Rider
Lady Cocoa; 1974
Legend of Dolemite
Mean Mother; 1972
The Messenger
Miss Melody Jones
Monkey Hustle (w/Rudy Ray Moore)
One Down, Two to Go
Raw Jive Live
Return of Superfly
Sugar Hill & her Zombie Hitmen; 1974
Uncle Tom's Cabin
Which Way is Up
White Fire

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