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Director Spotlight

Spike Lee's Joints

by Mosi Reeves

Spike Lee's Joints

About this playlist

During his nearly 30-year career as a director, Spike Lee has directed numerous features, documentaries, commercials and television specials. Billed as "A Spike Lee Joint" and often political in nature -- alas, we don't have space to delve into Spike's many controversies -- these films usually explore the lives of the black working and middle class, and they frequently incorporate music. His 1989 classic Do The Right Thing centers around Public Enemy's "Fight the Power," which he uses to illustrate the mind set of hip-hop youth in a tensely divided interracial Brooklyn neighborhood. The opening credits of 1996's Get on the Bus feature one of Michael Jackson's better late-period performances, "On the Line." And the final sequence in 1990's Mo' Better Blues, a drama about a talented but flawed jazz trumpeter, weaves around "Acknowledgement," the famous theme from John Coltrane's A Love Supreme. His next film, an adaptation of the South Korean gangster flick Old Boy, is due in October and features a score by Michael Nyman.

Lee's status as one of the greatest black directors -- don't hate, it's true -- has attracted a lot of alpha talent to his soundtracks, including Stevie Wonder, who created an album of songs for Jungle Fever; Prince, who compiled the soundtrack for 1996's Girl 6; and Bruce Hornsby, who scored 2012's Red Hook Summer. But his most frequent musical collaborator is Terence Blanchard, the trumpeter and composer who emerged in the '80s wave of "Young Lion" jazz musicians and has since worked on dozens of Lee's projects. This playlist samples from Spike Lee's joints.

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