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May 26 2018

Roy Ayers – Coffy

Introduction

In 1973 the movie Coffy was released. The soundtrack was another album within a short period of time, that contained fantastic (black) film music. A tribute to Roy Ayers’ masterpiece.

Roy Ayers

Roy Ayers (skiddle.com)

Roy Ayers

Because today’s subject is an album by Roy Ayers, a short intro to the man behind the music (thanks to wikipedia).

Roy Ayers, born September 10th, 1940, is an (American) funk, soul and jazz composer ans skilled vibraphone player. He started out as a post-bop jazz artist. Early 1970’s he signed a deal with Polydor and became one of the first artists to play jazz-funk. He played a vital part in that genre.

He was also very important for acid jazz (a mix between jazz, hip-hop and funk). To many he is The Godfather of Neo Soul, the musical movement that was huge at the end of the 1990’s, early 21st century. The important names within that genre, amongst others, were Slum Village, J Dilla, The Roots, Common, Erykah Badu and D’Angelo.

Exploitation movie

At the beginning of the 1970’s the phenomenon exploitation movie became present (and popular). It had been around for some time, but the genre had its heyday in that decade. Exploitation movies are movies made to make money of milking (exploit) current trends, niche genres or lurid content. Generally speaking they are “B” movies of a lesser quality. Oftentimes, sex and (extremely) graphic violence play a big part in the movies.

The number of subgenres is huge: monster movies, carsploitation, nudist movies, Ozploitation (Australian horror), sexploitation (softcore porn), spaghetti westerns and Nazisploitation

Some exploitation movies turned out to be important movies and received cult status. For instance: Easy Rider, Scanners, Videodrome, Cannonball, Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Emmanuelle and Ilsa, She Wolf Of The SS.

Nowadays movies are made as an homage to the genre that doesn’t exist anymore. Directors like Quentin Tarantino make movies in that genre, oftentimes using actors from the original exploitation movies.

Blaxploitation movies (wikipedia.org/apoplife.nl)

Blaxploitation movies

Blaxpolitation

One subgenre of exploitation movies are the so-called blaxploitation movies. Blaxploitation is an ethnic variant of an exploitation movie, which generated a great number of movies between 1970 and 1976. The movies contain black characters and neighborhoods, whose lead roles were portrayed as heroes. For the first time, blacks were the main subject of movies, instead of being cast as sidekick or victim.

The movies were heavily criticized also, beacuse a lot of the characters enhanced existing stereotypes, but also played a big (positive) part in the way blacks and black neighborhoods were conceived and talked about. Blaxploitation movies were primarily made for a black audience. But it didn’t take long before Hollywood realized that money could be made. The movies caught on outside of the intended audience.

Soundtracks

The soundtracks to blaxploitation movies often contained a lot of music. Some of those soundtracks grew out to be classic albums in their own right:

  • Funk classic Shaft, Isaac Hayes (1972)
  • Soul classic Super Fly, Curtis Mayfield (1972)
  • Reggae classic The Harder They Come, Jimmy Cliff (1972)
  • Soul classic Trouble Man, Marvin Gaye (1972)
  • Jazz classic Coffy, Roy Ayers (1973)

Coffy

Roy Ayers - Coffy (amazon.com)

Roy Ayers – Coffy

Coffy is a 1972 blaxploitation movie. Pam Grier plays the lead role. Coffy is a nurse, seeking vengeance for her sister’s death (due to drugs) and the continuing violence in her city. She takes on the mafia, the city’s council and anyone that stands in her way. To kill, she takes on the part of an attractive prostitute in her free time.

The soundtrack to the movie is by Roy Ayers. because of his musical background and his vibraphone playing, the album deviates from what was the norm within the blaxploitation soundtrack genre. It does contain deep funk and beautiful soul, but the jazzy feel colors the album and enriches the music greatly, making it imaginative and inventive. Highly recommended!

Songs

All songs written by Roy Ayers, unless stated otherwise.

  • Coffy Is The Color *
  • Priscilla’s Theme
  • King George *
  • Aragon
  • Coffy Sauna
  • King’s Last Ride
  • Coffy Baby **
  • Brawling Broads
  • Escape
  • Shining Symbol *
  • Exotic Dance
  • Making Love
  • Vittroni’s Theme – King Is Dead
  • End Of Sugarman ***
Written by
*   Lyrics: Carl Clay
**   Lyrics: Roselle Weaver
***   Roy Ayers en Harry Whitaker

Jackie Brown

Jackie Brown - Quentin Tarantino movie (wikipedia.org)

Jackie Brown – Quentin Tarantino movie

Coffy is one of Quentin Tarantino’s favorite movies. In 1997 he asked if Pam would want to play in his movie, Jackie Brown, a tribute to blaxploitation in general, and to Coffy in particular.

In closing

The blaxploitation genre had its heyday during the 1970’s, but occasionally surfaces. The most famous (and highest grossing) example is Purple Rain, the masterpiece by Prince. Here, also, the soundtrack itself is a classic album.

And, just as the genre seemed completely dead, this year marked the release of the movie Black Panther. Maybe not 100% blaxploitation, because Black Panther is based on a Marvel character, but still. Once again, the soundtrack is great. Kendrick Lamar has a big say in the soundtrack.

What do you think about Coffy? Let me know!

 

2 comments

  1. Krystal Banaszewski

    I love those old 70s movies

    1. A Pop Life (Erwin Barendregt)

      Me too!

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