Song of the Day #5,003: ‘Backlash Blues’ – Nina Simone

Continuing the countdown of my favorite 2021 movies…

Best Films of 2021
#8 – Summer of Soul

During last year’s Oscar ceremony, Questlove (who was DJ’ing the event) introduced a trailer for his directorial debut, a documentary about a summer concert series in 1969 Harlem. I remember thinking it was nice that he got the opportunity to plug a passion project but that I’d probably never hear about it again.

Fast forward a year, and that film, Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) is Oscar-nominated for Best Documentary Feature and the hands-on favorite to win. I wonder if Questlove imagined he would be back at the show as a nominee rather than a worker. Surely, he already knew his movie, which won an award at Sundance three months earlier, was worthy of the honor.

Summer of Soul is a vivid, stirring compilation of the legendary artists who played the Harlem Cultural Festival (the performers include Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Sly and the Family Stone, and B.B. King). Most of this footage has gone unseen for 50 years, a symbol (and example) of how easily this country can sweep aside Black excellence.

In addition to working as a dynamite concert doc, Summer of Soul introduces us in present day to the musicians who played there, others who were inspired by them, and actual concertgoers. It’s touching to watch grown people who were children among those crowds, watching this long lost footage and realizing it wasn’t just a dream.

[Verse 1]
Mr. Backlash, Mr. Backlash
Just who do you think I am?
You raise my taxes, freeze my wages
And send my son to Vietnam
You give me second-class houses
And second-class schools
Do you think that all colored folks
Are just second-class fools?

[Chorus]
Mr. Backlash
I’m gon’ leave you with the backlash blues

[Verse 2]
When I try to find a job
To earn a little cash
All you got to offer
Is your mean, old, white backlash
But the world is big
Big and bright and round
And it’s full of folks like me
Who are black, yellow, beige, and brown

[Chorus]
Mr. Backlash
I’m gon’ leave you with the backlash blues
[Instrumental Break]

[Outro]
Mr. Backlash, Mr. Backlash
Just what do you think I got to lose?
I’m gon’ leave you with the backlash blues
You’re the one who’ll have the blues, not me
Just wait and see

3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #5,003: ‘Backlash Blues’ – Nina Simone

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    This was a great film, worthy of its Oscar nomination and likely win.

  2. Peg says:

    Wonderful documentary! Hope it wins 👏🤞

  3. Amy says:

    I remember thinking this would win the moment I saw it. It’s such an uplifting film; It’s tailor made for an Oscar.

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