Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Breakestra, Orgone, and The Bamboos may have caught the ear of today’s young funk fans, but those artists would be nowhere without Stax Records’ soul. The Memphis, TN label that gave the world Sam & Dave, Booker T & The MGs, The Staple Singers, Isaac Hayes (pictured above), and Otis Redding was recently reborn, signing new artists, including Angie Stone and Soulive. Three new feature DVDs, Respect Yourself: The Stax Story, Dreams To Remember: The Legacy Of Otis Redding, and Stax-Volt Review: Live In Norway 1967, highlight the label’s 50th anniversary (1957-2007) and mighty place in American music.
Stax broke racist taboos in the segregated ’60s south, bringing white and black musicians together; many of the label’s most famous hits were written at the nearby Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968. Later, Stax artists stood with pride at the 100,000-strong 1972 WattsStax music festival in L.A. For Stax, times changed, but the music never stopped.
This Monday, December 10, 2007 marked the 40th anniversary of soul genius Otis Redding’s death in a plane crash at age 26. Between 1965-67, Redding was the dominant U.S. soul artist, performing before 50,000 hippies at the ’67 Monterrey Pop Festival. After his death, and the death of King, many thought Stax and soul were dead. But as Respect chronicles, label head Al Bell and songwriter Isaac Hayes rebuilt Stax into a hit-making machine responsible for the Shaft soundtrack and dozens of radio favorites.
The three new DVDs feature restored live concert footage, rare interviews with Stax singers and artists, and artfully revives the Stax universe for a new generation. A soul museum and music academy now inhabits the lot where Stax Records forged its hits. Although times in America may seem bleak, Stax’s music, message, and resilience are a reminder that change is always blowing in the wind.