SUPERFLY! Caught it on one of the movie channels on DirecTV tonight. Here’s an interesting look at the making of this blaxploitation classic, and how Curtis Mayfield came to do the soundtrack, which a well-known blogger once described as:
truly the best part of the film. Clearly working on a limited budget, the filmmakers somehow were precient enough to spend this portion of their funds very, very wisely. Mayfield’s music is part Greek chorus, part counterpoint to the action on the film, some of the best music of the 1970s, and the only sense of morality in the film. I’d love to know at what point Mayfield discovered he would be writing music for a film glorifying drug dealers, and decided to insert his own morals into his lyrics. His music makes an otherwise forgettable movie electrifying. Shaft may have had the bigger budget, and was better directed, but Mayfield’s score, throughout the entire film, far surpasses Isaac Hayes’ soundtrack efforts in Shaft: only Hayes’ theme song can stand on equal footing with all of the music that Mayfield wrote, and Johnny Tate brilliantly arranged, for Superfly.
Unfortunately, to borrow a phrase from Les Paul, it seems like a good chunk of Superfly’s audience “listened with their eyes”, and ignored Mayfield’s warnings: visually, Superfly is ground zero for “gangsta rap”: huge Cadillacs, even bigger lapels and Fedoras, black gangsters “with a plan to stick it to the man”, white policemen pushing drugs themselves (paging Maxine Waters!)–so much of rap culture begins here. (And I can’t help but wonder if O’Neal’s flowing locks were the inspiration for Al Sharpton’s impressively coiffed hair.)
As I wrote a year ago, “Too bad they didn’t listen to the music–they might have learned something.”