It must be very satisfying to you that your song “Soul Man” and the Motown sound is so enduring.
Well, y’see, to straighten it all out with you, I got to tell you what I did, that was done 30 years ago. Yeah, it was really impressive for me to watch it.

A day doesn’t go by without that song getting played on the radio.
Yeah, it’s one of the 10-12 most played songs in the world.

Now, I have to ask a question for the film geek that I am. You were in “Tapeheads” and played in the fictional band The Swanky Modes. How did you get that gig?
Well, Dave wasn’t around, so I did it with Junior Walker and I got to tell you… it was interesting. The producer and director let us adlib, so that was basically how I got it, but that was Tim Robbins.

What was it like to work with Tim Robbins and John Cusack?
Those guys are sick. Party every night. I couldn’t keep up with them.

What is your impression of the film?
Survive… you know, you shouldn’t be ashamed to be called a survivor. Because look, a lot of my peers are not here today, like, uh, this morning, Nile Hampton, he passed. 94 years young and I’m still around. Thank God. But I tell people you may be a little grayer, you might be a little heavier, but if we can get up there and make people walk out feeling good about themselves, I think my job is done.

What’s it like to see your life exposed on screen?
I’m kind of private, but I think D.A., y’know, Pennebaker, I think he did it justice. He and Roger Friedman did a wonderful job and I salute them.

What was it like to work with D.A. Pennebaker?
The man is wonderful, the man is brilliant and working with him again would be my most gratifying thing to do.

Is there anything that didn’t make the cut of the film that you’d like fans to know about?
Yeah, I didn’t hold anything back. I took ‘em where I sell drugs, where I did drugs and all those negative things. I took ‘em up into the neighborhood so, no, I didn’t hold anything back.

If you could go back and talk to the younger version of yourself what would you say?
Learn this business. Learn this business. Ya not gonna always be on top. It’s sad enough to make it, but once you get there, you gotta sustain that and while you’re trying to sustain, learn. Learn about welfare royalties and learn all these things and if you do that, ya know what, you won’t get screwed.

Posted on November 5, 2002 in Interviews by


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