A couple weeks after involuntarily leaving New Orleans along with a few hundred thousand of my closest friends, I found myself alone in a house near the ocean, with plenty of free time on my hands. After a day filled with phone calls to insurance companies, FEMA, friends and family, I would take a break, find a red envelope and pop in a movie.
Ahh, the moment had arrived to view classics of the cinema and other assorted nonsense. As I browsed the next selections for my exile cinema, one name rang a bell. Oh yes, Black Caesar. I remember that name.
Back in the day, Public Enemy had a track called Burn, Hollywood Burn, a righteous send-up of the film industry. A skit ends the song as the announcer proudly presents “Driving Miss Daisy.”
In the ensuing cat-calls and banter, one line meets with approval. “I got Black Caesar
at the crib!” The line had stuck with me through the years.
With the connection made in memory, the disc was selected and sent. Soon enough, it arrived and got its chance in the rotation.
I knew it was a gangster film. But as the opening titles came on the screen, my ears did a double-take. Wait, that sounds like James Brown!
Sure enough, it was “Down And Out In New York City,” one of his more obscure tunes. In fact, I’d never heard it before, and was immediately curious. The rest of the film featured one James Brown track after another, with the only recognizable track being “(Paid the cost to be) The Boss,” a tune I’d heard many times before.
Needless to say, the soundtrack turned an ordinary “exploitation” movie into something more interesting.
The bonus footage on the disc had the story behind the soundtrack. A convoluted tale of conforming the movie to fit the idiosyncratic tracks Brown produced, and of course the inevitable falling out when it came time to make a sequel.