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movie Summer of Soul

CBS News | A new documentary, featuring rarely-seen footage, captures the magic of a 1969 music festival held at Mount Morris Park in Harlem, attended by 300,000 people. The festival had long been forgotten in the shadow of that other New York music festival, Woodstock. Contributor Hua Hsu talks with “Summer of Soul” director Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, bandleader of The Roots, about reviving the legacy of the Harlem Cultural Festival, which featured such stars as Sly and the Family Stone and Stevie Wonder.


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“Summer of Soul”: Rescuing a Historic Harlem Music Festival

Story produced by Mary Raffalli. Editor: Carol Ross., CBS News Sunday Morning

In the summer of 1969, four-year-old Musa Jackson and 19-year-old Darryl Lewis attended a music festival. “Even now, when I think about it, I’m a little emotional about it, because it’s something that I’ve had in my heart, in my head since I was four years old,” Jackson said.

“There were some that thought I made it up!” laughed Lewis.

But he did not; he and Jackson were part of the crowd that gathered at Mount Morris Park in Harlem. “It really was like a sea of people,” Jackson said.

They weren’t at that other music festival in upstate New York: “I didn’t see Woodstock; my parents would not let me go!” Lewis laughed.

It’s said Woodstock defined a generation. But that summer’s Harlem Cultural Festival, featuring stars like Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and the Fifth Dimension, and attended by approximately 300,000 people, was left out of the history books.

“This mythical, magical festival thrown in 1969, with all these great names, and I never heard about it?” said Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. “When it was shown to me, I got humbled real quick!”

For Thompson, leader of “The Tonight Show” house band The Roots, that magical festival is now the basis of his documentary, “Summer of Soul,” which opens this week. “This is not about just me having my first directorial debut,” he said. “I’ve been given the responsibility to correct history, which, who’d a thought, you know?”

The festival, organized and hosted by singer Tony Lawrence, was filmed by television producer Hal Tulchin, but the 40 hours of footage remained largely unseen.

“Sunday Morning” contributor Hua Hsu asked, “What happened to it? Why hadn’t we heard of this festival?”

“The #1 question I always had was, like, ‘Wait a minute, you’re trying to tell me that, for 50 years, no one was interested?'” Thompson said. “I know that Hal Tulchin tried very hard to find any and every one. Nobody would take it.”
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A 19-year-old Stevie Wonder playing drums is pretty hard to forget. “He’s really coming into his own,” Hsu said.
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Others, like David Ruffin, who’d just left the Temptations, stuck with Motown standards – and weathered the record label’s requisite buttoned-up look. . .
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To watch a trailer for “Summer of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)” click on the video player: https://www.searchlightpictures.com/summerofsoul/

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