Syl Johnson: Any Way the Wind Blows

Bill I’s Rating: 3 out of 5

Straightforward documentary, played at the Montclair Film Festival, about a great soul singer, Syl Johnson, who never got much acclaim. In fact, I had never even heard of him. He was almost Al Green, and unluckily missed his big shot. He appeared on Soul Train, toured extensively, including today as an 80 something year old, and had a couple of top 100 hit songs. But some key people did find out about him and his songs: Wu Tang Clan, Jay Z, Snoop Dogg and literally hundreds of hip hop artists who sampled him in their songs. Syl is an interesting character, both proud of his accomplishments, resentful he never gained mainstream success, and loving the attention wherever he can get it. The documentary coincided with the release of a $75 boxed set of his catalog, that got a Grammy nomination (for engineering, although Syl perceived it as his). Very cool to hear how his work was sampled, and how good the original songs are. Check him out, and look for this documentary if it gets released.

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