Stax Announces Wattstax ’72 “Soul’d Out” Celebration

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Stax Records and Craft Recordings have announced the release of multiple new titles paying homage to the iconic 1972 Wattstax Benefit Concert that took place at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The massive sets, Soul’d Out: The Complete Wattstax Collection and Wattstax: The Complete Concert, will be released on Feb. 24, 2023.

From the Dec. 7 announcement: Created in conjunction with the annual Watts Summer Festival to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the Watts uprising in Los Angeles, the Aug. 20, 1972, Wattstax benefit concert was attended by more than 100,000 people. It featured performances from Stax Records’ most popular artists of the time, including, but not limited to, Isaac Hayes, The Staple Singers, Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas and The Bar-Kays. These releases are the first complete audio collections of what Wattstax creator and then-President of Stax Records, Al Bell, calls the “most jubilant celebration of African American music, culture, and values in American history.”

Soul’d Out: The Complete Wattstax Collection is a 12-CD box set featuring the complete 1972 L.A. Memorial Coliseum concert plus recordings from the Summit Club, including 31 previously unreleased tracks across the collection. These recordings are housed in a folio with a 76-page, full-color book featuring an introduction by Bell, and new essays by Rob Bowman and A. Scott Galloway. A previously unreleased version of the iconic soul funk anthem “Theme From Shaft” by the legendary Isaac Hayes from his headline set at Wattstax was released in advance of the set.

Wattstax: The Complete Concert includes the full L.A. Memorial Coliseum concert and is available on both 6-CD and 10-LP formats. In addition to musical performances, it features all the speeches and other stage banter from the event, including event MC, the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s often referenced “I Am Somebody” speech. Both formats of this collection include the full-color book with introduction by Wattstax creator Al Bell, and essays by Rob Bowman and A. Scott Galloway that is also included in Soul’d Out: The Complete Wattstax Collection.

Watch the official trailer for the collection

In addition, 1-CD title, The Best of Wattstax, brings together a handpicked selection of twenty of the best musical performances from the Wattstax concert. Including performances by Isaac Hayes, The Staple Singers, The Bar-Kays, Kim Weston, Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, Albert King, Eddie Floyd and more, and serves as a great introduction to the event and the many iconic artists that it featured.

Newly cut from the original analog tapes, reissues of the two original soundtrack albums Wattstax: The Living Word and The Living Word: Wattstax 2—which feature highlights from the concert and subsequent documentary film—will also each be reissued on 2-LP formats on the same date.

More on the releases as well as track listings appear below the Amazon links.

On August 11, 1965, a 22-year-old Black man named Marquette Fry was pulled over by white police officers on suspicion of driving while intoxicated in the Watts community of Los Angeles, igniting the protests that would come to be known as the Watts Rebellion. This breaking point was spurred by the destitution of Watts residents, who had grown weary after decades of discrimination, lack of jobs with decent wages, and other forms of economic oppression, political isolation, poor schools, unfair housing practices, and the type of racial superiority that had long denied them their right to live happy, fulfilled lives.

In the South, during the same time, Stax Records President Al Bell witnessed angry white mobs, the intervention efforts of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, white children jumping out of school windows to avoid contact with the Black children, and the throwing of burning toilet paper on to the Black children.

In 1971, Bell set up a Stax satellite office in Los Angeles and regularly monitored the living situation in Watts and the positive changes in the community, or, more accurately, the lack thereof. It seemed the residents of Watts had lost all hope, like a people on the verge of suicide. They had resigned to accept the loss of the battle for basic acknowledgement and a fair quality of life. Bell knew something had to be done to change this and was certain that healing could be delivered through the power of music. Bell says, “I believed then that soul music is an art form born of the African American culture, and that Stax should support the people who supported us. I also wanted to garner more recognition for our roster of Southern Soul artists by taking them to Hollywood for a performance that no one would ever forget.”

The 2-LP soundtrack of the concert’s highlights Wattstax: The Living Word was released several months after the benefit concert, selling more than 500,000 copies just weeks after its release. This was followed in 1973 by the Mel Stuart-directed concert film Wattstax, which features Richard Pryor as host and went on to be nominated for a Golden Globe® award for Best Documentary in 1974. In 2020, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Watch the Recording Academy’s brief history of the Watts Summer Festival

Related: Stax Records founder, Jim Stewart, died in Dec. 2022

Soul’d Out: The Complete Wattstax Collection 12-CD Tracklist

DISC 1

Dale Warren & The Wattstax ’72 Orchestra – Salvation Symphony
Kim Weston – The Star Spangled Banner*
Tommy Jacquette & Jesse Jackson – Opening announcements
Kim Weston – Lift Every Voice and Sing
Melvin Van Peebles – We’re here to consecrate, not desecrate
The Staple Singers – Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom-Boom)
The Staple Singers – Are You Sure
The Staple Singers – I Like the Things About Me
The Staple Singers – Respect Yourself
The Staple Singers – I’ll Take You There

DISC 2

Tommy Jacquette & Richard Roundtree – Wattstax Day proclamation
Jimmy Jones – Somebody Bigger Than You and I
Louise McCord – Better Get a Move On
Deborah Manning – Precious Lord Take My Hand
Eric Mercury – I Shall Not Be Moved*
Freddie Robinson – At the Drive-In*
Lee Sain – Them Hot Pants
Ernie Hines – What Would I Do*
Little Sonny – Wade in the Water
William Bell – I Forgot to Be Your Lover
The Newcomers – Pin the Tail on the Donkey
Eddie Floyd – Knock on Wood
The Temprees – Explain It to Her Mama
Frederick Knight – I’ve Been Lonely for So Long
The Golden 13 – Old Time Religion
William Bell – Al Bell Award presentation
The Rance Allen Group – Lying on the Truth
The Rance Allen Group – Up Above My Head

DISC 3

William Bell – David Porter introduction
The David Porter Show – Introduction
David Porter – Ain’t That Loving You (For More Reasons Than One)
David Porter – Can’t See You When I Want To
David Porter – Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)
William Bell – The Bar-Kays introduction
The Bar-Kays – Son of Shaft/Feel It
The Bar-Kays – In the Hole
The Bar-Kays – I Can’t Turn You Loose
William Bell – Tommy Tate introduction
Tommy Tate – I Remember*
William Bell – Please move back to the stands
Tommy Tate – Help Me Love*
Tommy Tate – School of Life*

DISC 4

William Bell & John Kasandra – Carla Thomas introduction
Carla Thomas – Pick Up the Pieces
Carla Thomas – I Like What You’re Doing (To Me)
Carla Thomas – B-A-B-Y
Carla Thomas – Gee Whiz
Carla Thomas – I Have a God Who Loves
John KaSandra – Albert King introduction
Albert King – Match Box Blues
Albert King – Got to Be Some Changes Made
Albert King – I’ll Play the Blues for You
Albert King – Killing Floor
Albert King – Angel of Mercy
John KaSandra – Rufus Thomas introduction
John KaSandra & Rufus Thomas – Rufus Thomas entrance
Rufus Thomas – The Breakdown
John KaSandra & Rufus Thomas – Kindly go back to your seats

DISC 5

Rufus Thomas – Do the Funky Chicken
Rufus Thomas – Do the Funky Penguin
Jesse Jackson – I am, somebody
The Soul Children – I Don’t Know What This World Is Coming To
The Soul Children – Hearsay
John KaSandra, Fred Williamson & Jesse Jackson – Let us stand and raise our fists together
Billy Eckstine – If I Can Help Somebody*
Billy Eckstine – There is a curfew here

DISC 6

Jesse Jackson – Isaac Hayes introduction
Isaac Hayes – Theme From Shaft (Version 1) *
Isaac Hayes – Theme From Shaft (Version 2)
Isaac Hayes – Soulsville
Isaac Hayes – Never Can Say Goodbye
Isaac Hayes – Part-Time Love*
Isaac Hayes – Your Love Is So Doggone Good
Isaac Hayes – Ain’t No Sunshine/Lonely Avenue
Isaac Hayes – I Stand Accused
Jesse Jackson – Let everybody stand and join hands
Jimmy Jones – If I Had a Hammer

DISC 7: LIVE AT THE SUMMIT CLUB (September 23, 1972)

Rufus Thomas – Rufus Thomas introduction*
Rufus Thomas – Comedy Set*
Rufus Thomas – Night Time Is the Right Time*

DISC 8: LIVE AT THE SUMMIT CLUB (September 23, 1972)

Rufus Thomas – Johnnie Taylor introduction
Johnnie Taylor – Take Care of Your Homework (Set 1)
Johnnie Taylor – Little Bluebird (Set 1)
Johnnie Taylor – Steal Away (Set 1)
Johnnie Taylor – I Don’t Wanna Lose You (Set 1)
Johnnie Taylor – Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone (Set 1) *
Johnnie Taylor – Who’s Making Love (Set 2)
Johnnie Taylor – Hello Sundown (Set 2)
Johnnie Taylor – Steal Away (Set 2)
Johnnie Taylor – Stop Doggin’ Me (Set 2)
Johnnie Taylor – Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone (Set 2)

DISC 9: LIVE AT THE SUMMIT CLUB (September 29, 1972)

Sons Of Slum – Think (About It) *
Sons Of Slum – Respect*
Sons Of Slum – The Man*
Sons Of Slum – Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone/Dance to the Music/Music Lover/I Want to Take You Higher*
The Emotions – So I Can Love You
The Emotions – Blind Alley*
The Emotions – Introductions
The Emotions – Show Me How
The Emotions – When Tomorrow Comes*
The Emotions – I Could Never Be Happy*

DISC 10: LIVE AT THE SUMMIT CLUB (October 4, 1972)

Little Milton – Open the Door to Your Heart
Little Milton – Let Me Down Easy
Little Milton – Grits Ain’t Groceries (All Around the World)
Little Milton – Blind Man
Little Milton – I Can’t Quit You Baby
Little Milton – That’s What Love Will Make You Do
Little Milton – Walking the Back Streets and Crying

DISC 11: LIVE AT THE SUMMIT CLUB (October 4, 1972)

Mel & Tim – Introduction*
Mel & Tim – Warm It Up*
Mel & Tim – Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me) *
Mel & Tim – Groovy Situation*
Mel & Tim – Good Guys Only Win in the Movies*
Mel & Tim – Backfield in Motion/Starting All Over Again*
Mel & Tim – Friendship Train*

DISC 12: ADDITIONAL RECORDINGS

The Emotions – Peace Be Still (Rehearsal)*
The Emotions – Peace Be Still (Take 1)*
The Emotions – Peace Be Still (Take 2)
Isaac Hayes – Rolling Down a Mountainside
Isaac Hayes – Rolling Down a Mountainside (Alternate Version) *
The Staple Singers – Oh La De Da
Eddie Floyd – Lay Your Loving on Me
The Dramatics – Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get
Mel & Tim – I May Not Be What You Want
Richard Pryor – Saturday Night/Blue Note, Backroom
Richard Pryor – Arrest/Line-Up
Richard Pryor – Niggers
Richard Pryor – Negroes
Richard Pryor – Handshake
Richard Pryor – Wino Get a Job
* = Previously Unreleased

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Wattstax: The Complete Concert 6-CD Tracklist

DISC 1
1. Dale Warren & The Wattstax ’72 Orchestra – Salvation Symphony
2. Kim Weston – The Star Spangled Banner*
3. Tommy Jacquette & Jesse Jackson – Opening announcements
4. Kim Weston – Lift Every Voice and Sing
5. Melvin Van Peebles – We’re here to consecrate, not desecrate
6. The Staple Singers – Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom-Boom)
7. The Staple Singers – Are You Sure
8. The Staple Singers – I Like the Things About Me
9. The Staple Singers – Respect Yourself
10. The Staple Singers – I’ll Take You There

DISC 2
1. Tommy Jacquette & Richard Roundtree – Wattstax Day proclamation
2. Jimmy Jones – Somebody Bigger Than You and I
3. Louise McCord – Better Get a Move On
4. Deborah Manning – Precious Lord Take My Hand
5. Eric Mercury – I Shall Not Be Moved*
6. Freddie Robinson – At the Drive-In*
7. Lee Sain – Them Hot Pants
8. Ernie Hines – What Would I Do*
9. Little Sonny – Wade in the Water
10. William Bell – I Forgot to Be Your Lover
11. The Newcomers – Pin the Tail on the Donkey
12. Eddie Floyd – Knock on Wood
13. The Temprees – Explain It to Her Mama
14. Frederick Knight – I’ve Been Lonely for So Long
15. The Golden 13 – Old Time Religion
16. William Bell – Al Bell Award presentation
17. The Rance Allen Group – Lying on the Truth
18. The Rance Allen Group – Up Above My Head

DISC 3
1. William Bell – David Porter introduction
2. The David Porter Show – Introduction
3. David Porter – Ain’t That Loving You (For More Reasons Than One)
4. David Porter – Can’t See You When I Want To
5. David Porter – Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)
6. William Bell – The Bar-Kays introduction
7. The Bar-Kays – Son of Shaft/Feel It
8. The Bar-Kays – In the Hole
9. The Bar-Kays – I Can’t Turn You Loose
10. William Bell – Tommy Tate introduction
11. Tommy Tate – I Remember*
12. William Bell – Please move back to the stands
13. Tommy Tate – Help Me Love*
14. Tommy Tate – School of Life*

DISC 4
1. William Bell & John Kasandra – Carla Thomas introduction
2. Carla Thomas – Pick Up the Pieces
3. Carla Thomas – I Like What You’re Doing (To Me)
4. Carla Thomas – B-A-B-Y
5. Carla Thomas – Gee Whiz
6. Carla Thomas – I Have a God Who Loves
7. John KaSandra – Albert King introduction
8. Albert King – Match Box Blues
9. Albert King – Got to Be Some Changes Made
10. Albert King – I’ll Play the Blues for You
11. Albert King – Killing Floor
12. Albert King – Angel of Mercy
13. John KaSandra – Rufus Thomas introduction
14. John KaSandra & Rufus Thomas – Rufus Thomas entrance
15. Rufus Thomas – The Breakdown
16. John KaSandra & Rufus Thomas – Kindly go back to your seats

DISC 5
1. Rufus Thomas – Do the Funky Chicken
2. Rufus Thomas – Do the Funky Penguin
3. Jesse Jackson – I am, somebody
4. The Soul Children – I Don’t Know What This World Is Coming To
5. The Soul Children – Hearsay
6. John KaSandra, Fred Williamson & Jesse Jackson – Let us stand and raise our fists together
7. Billy Eckstine – If I Can Help Somebody*
8. Billy Eckstine – There is a curfew here

DISC 6
1. Jesse Jackson – Isaac Hayes introduction
2. Isaac Hayes – Theme From Shaft (Version 1)*
3. Isaac Hayes – Theme From Shaft (Version 2)
4. Isaac Hayes – Soulsville
5. Isaac Hayes – Never Can Say Goodbye
6. Isaac Hayes – Part-Time Love
7. Isaac Hayes – Your Love Is So Doggone Good
8. Isaac Hayes – Ain’t No Sunshine/Lonely Avenue
9. Isaac Hayes – I Stand Accused
10. Jesse Jackson – Let everybody stand and join hands
11. Jimmy Jones – If I Had a Hammer

* = Previously Unreleased

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