Django Unchained producer Reggie Hudlin is getting to fulfill yet another lifelong dream when he brings his love of Black film soundtracks to life at the Hollywood Bowl. Hudlin recruited his favorite musicians, including Bilal, Lalah Hathaway, Marcus Miller, and the Hollywood Bowl orchestra, to help reimagine songs from movies like Stormy Weather, Shaft, Purple Rain, and The Bodyguard. He spoke with ESSENCE.com about celebrating Black movie soundtracks in such a major way.
This sounds amazing. Where did this idea come from?
Well, I love going to concerts at the Hollywood Bowl. One of the best shows they have is “Hollywood Music Night” where a full orchestra plays all the great film scores from Jaws, Sound of Music, and The Magnificent Seven. I thought, ‘Wow that's really cool. I want to do that with my favorite music.’ Last year while doing all the nominations for Django Unchained for Best Picture, the Academy came to me and said, ‘We want you to be more involved in our organization.’ I told them this idea, and they said, "Great."
How did you go about choosing the film soundtracks?
When I first started making the list, it like 130-songs long. And I was like, uh-oh, that's probably a week's worth of music. I said what are the essential songs to give a sense of, or a sweep, of history? You've had Black music in movies almost from the beginning of sound. I said well, we've got to have “Shaft.” If there's a single song that epitomizes Black movie music, it's “Shaft.” If you have “Shaft,” you've got to have “Superfly, “you’ve got to have “Trouble Man.” Then you go, wait a minute, what about the 80s? What about Prince? What about Purple Rain? Wait a minute we're forgetting the big classics. What about Stormy Weather and all those great jazz songs? If you're a real fan of this music, you're going to walk away going, ‘Hey, you didn't play my favorite song, blah, blah, blah." All I could say is hopefully this will be the first of many shows like this, we'll get to it.
It doesn’t feel like people are as excited about the soundtrack as they used to. Have we moved on from the soundtrack?
I think that era is over. Obviously you've got a couple of distinct areas. You've got the Quincy Jones-Duke Ellington era, right? Then the 70s where you had these great artists getting a chance to stretch out, like Curtis Mayfield doing Superfly, Claudine and Sparkle, right? Then in the 80s you’ve got Prince with Under the Cherry Moon, Purple Rain, Graffiti Bridge, and Batman. Then we moved into the curated soundtrack. You had LA and Babyface on the Boomerang soundtrack, and their work on Waiting to Exhale. Yeah, you have this great curating happening. Part of that quite frankly is a reflection of two things: Black film having a hard time getting made in Hollywood, and the diminished thread of soundtracks periods, Black or White. That's one of the reasons behind this. We should stop, take note of it, and hopefully inspire both filmmakers and music artists to step up to this challenge again.
You’ve also got Princess (Maya Rudolph’s all-girl Prince tribute band), Public Enemy, En Vogue, the list goes on. Why those particular acts?
Well this is kind of like in the real music category. You really just got to have folks who have skills. The thing about every name on the list, is that no one can look and go, oh they don't have skills. They can all sing their faces off. They will do right by these crazies. Plus Marcus Miller and the orchestra. It's actually almost unfair. It's so double-barrel fully loaded.
What’s really unfair is that that those of us who aren’t at the Hollywood Bowl won’t get to see this.
It's kind of messed up. Everyone is like, so you're filming this for a TV special right? I'm like no. And they're like, really? This is it? I'm like, I'm amazed that this is happening.
The Academy Celebrates The Black Movie Soundtrack takes place at The Hollywood Bowl, Wednesday, September 3 at 8pm.