Watts Summer Festival        by Scarlet Waters

A gathering of musicians and entertainers from the black community, brought together to remember the Watts Riots from seven years prior.

If you have never seen it, you must see the 1973 concert film Wattstax starring Richard Pryor and the most incredible line-up of Soul, R&B, Gospel, Blues, Jazz, and Funk musicians that have ever gathered in one place to perform.  This concert took place at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on August 20, 1972, and included Isaac Hayes, The Staples Singers, Johnnie Taylor, Rufus Thomas, Albert King, and The Bar Kays among many others.  “Watts” refers to the all-Black neighborhood in Los Angeles where the riots occurred, and Stax was the record label all the artists were signed to. It was actually a benefit concert for the 7th anniversary of the 1965 Watts riots, and featured all of the prominent artists at that time from the Stax Record label. All tickets were only $1 so that it would be possible for everyone to attend.  It turned out to be one of the most infamous events ever in African American history, and was actually nominated for a Golden Globe award for Best Documentary Film in 1974. 

In between the amazing musical

performances were skits and

vignettes that Richard Pryor

hosted in and around the Watts

community.  He did interviews

and just had real, down-to-earth

conversations with our people. 

He also performed a dramatic

monologue and of course

incorporated comedy in the way

famous I Am Somebody speech.  From there you witness what can only be described adequately as a galactic explosion of raw talent and artistry never seen before.  One of my favorite moments is when the lead singer for The Bar Kays, Larry Dodson, came out on stage to join the band, looking like some kind of Egyptian God!  He had the most amazing costume on, with long white fringes hanging from his arms and layers of gold chains draping down his chest and torso.  He was the personification of confidence and fire was just shooting out of his eyes — it was the most divine entrance on stage I have ever seen!  And then they proceeded to KILL it. 

The entire stadium was up out of their seats throughout the concert dancing to Respect Yourself, Knock on Wood, Son of Shaft, Do the Funky Chicken, and it all ended with Never Can Say Goodbye by the infamous Isaac Hayes. Find Wattstax on-line.  Buy it.  Watch it!  Living Black History.  


that only Richard Pryor could, showing an ever greater depth at that time during his rising fame, of just how talented an individual he was.  The concert opened up with an original symphony, Kim Weston sang Lift Every Voice and Sing, and Jesse Jackson gave his

THE BAR KAYS

ISAAC HAYES

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