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Terence Blanchard: My Spike Lee Joints

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Tuesday September 04, 2018

From Billboard

‘My Spike Lee Joints’: ‘BlacKkKlansman’ Composer Terence Blanchard on Working With the Director for Nearly 30 Years
By: Terence Blanchard

Grammy-winning trumpeter/composer Terence Blanchard has worked with director Spike Lee for almost 30 years — the first film the two collaborated on was 1991’s Jungle Fever, with the first movie Blanchard scored entirely for Lee coming the next year with 1992’s Malcolm X. Blanchard’s score for Lee’s latest, BlacKkKlansman, is one of his most resonant yet, referencing the early ‘70s — the time in which the true story about the first African-American police officer to infiltrate the KKK takes place — while creating something totally vibrant and new. Billboard asked Blanchard to pick his top 5 collaborations with Lee. Instead, Blanchard wrote an essay about working with Lee, reflecting on some of his most memorable experiences. The specifics of how Blanchard approaches a film may change from project to project, but his passion and desire to serve the story remain unchanged.

Spike can’t co-opt hip; it has to be relevant, meaningful and truthful. His film can’t be enough just to get by or to put something in the marketplace. When he gives you a movie, it’s intentional. It will be chilling, loving and hateful by design.

For Spike’s film Bamboozled, the Guardian’s Ashley Clarke wrote that Spike Lee is “equal parts crystal ball and cannonball: glittery and prophetic, heavy and dangerous.” The film confronts race in America, but ultimately, I think what it means to be America. Bamboozled, to me, is quintessential Spike. He’s a master at taking a serious topic and making us reflect on it while giving us a chance to laugh at its absurdity.

He wants us to ask “What is America these days?” He wants us to ask about currency. There has always been a fight about what it means to be American, the “Americanness” of true citizens. There are many shades of that, and I do mean color by the word “shades.” But I also mean shades of temperament, democracy, justice, our own right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Read the full essay here