On August 20, 1972, in Los Angeles, the protesting sound of the Stax label

On August 20, 1972, in Los Angeles, the protesting sound of the Stax label

The Bar-Kays, during the Wattstax concert, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, August 20, 1972.

It is a little after 2:30 p.m. when the first notes of Salvation Symphony, composition by Dale O. Warren, in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, a stadium in the heart of Exposition Park in South Central. Almost seven hours later, the song If I Had a Hammer, written by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays in 1949, which became one of the anthems of the civil rights movement, is interpreted in a fervent version by Jimmy Jones. The series of concerts and speeches presented under the name of Wattstax ends.

It was organized by Stax Records, founded in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1957 by Jim Stewart and his sister Estelle Axton, which from the late 1960s to the early 1970s was one of the most important phonographic companies in the the field of soul music. Otis Redding was one of its major artists, and when Wattstax takes place, Isaac Hayes is its main star.

Everything was recorded and filmed. Several excerpts from the concerts will appear in a double album in January 1973, shortly before the theatrical release of the film, a montage of the great moments.

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Other excerpts have been published over the years, but with the release of Soul’d Out. The Complete Wattstax Collection, it is the first time that the full performances of the various artists and speeches, including those of the pastor and political activist Jesse Jackson, have been collected. For the Stax Records company, the day had made it possible to present a large part of its artists, Kim Weston, Rufus Thomas, The Staple Singers, Albert King, The Bar-Kays, Eddie Floyd, William Bell, Carla Thomas… some and some for one or two songs, with Isaac Hayes in majesty, who, in the evening, was entitled to an hour on the stage set up on the stadium lawn.

A civic act

Other artists from the catalog, who had not been able to participate in the day or had only made a short appearance, were invited to the Summit Club in Los Angeles, during several evenings, at the end of September and the beginning of October 1972. also, all of their concerts are there, bringing the total number of CDs in the set to twelve. A one-day edition, Watts tax. The Complete Concertin six CDs is, moreover, proposed.

Promotional operation for Stax Records, the Wattstax day was also a civic act, part of the seventh edition of the Watts Summer Festival. It was in August 1966 that this event took place, an initiative of various cultural associations, fighting against poverty or in favor of political and social demands for the Afro-American community. It is a question, each year, of remembering, during debates, exhibitions, shows, that, in the district of Watts, there had been a week of riots following an abusive police control, Wednesday August 11, 1965, of a young driver.

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