OSCAR COVERAGE: ‘Summer of Soul’ Named Best Documentary and Other Oscar Music News
Mavis Staples (left) and Mahalia Jackson in footage from "Summer of Soul." (Searchlight Pictures)
Will Smith’s resonant slap of Chris Rock onstage at the Academy Awards will be the headline of the evening, but music had a notable (and far less painful) night too.
A moment after Smith strolled onstage to slap Rock, who’d just make a joke aimed at Smith’s wife, Jada Smith, Rock recovered enough to introduce the nominees for the Documentary Feature category. The winner, to loud applause, was Summer of Soul, about the six-week 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, directed by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson.
“This is about marginalized people in Harlem that needed to heal from pain,” Questlove said in an emotional acceptance speech. Despite not receiving much attention at the time, legendary musicians in roots, funk, soul, and R&B like The Staple Singers, Mahalia Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Sly and The Family Stone, and more all performed at the Harlem Cultural Festival; the documentary’s restoration and preservation of these iconic shows helped solidify its Oscar win.
Many nominees for Best Original Song featured roots music artists as well. The category included “Dos Oruguitas” from Encanto, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda; “Down to Joy,” written and performed by Van Morrison for the movie Belfast, and “Somehow You Do” by Diane Warren, performed for the movie Four Good Days by Reba McEntire. “Be Alive” by DIXSON and Beyoncé, performed by Beyoncé in King Richard, also earned a nod.
Ultimately, pop star Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas won the Oscar for “No Time to Die,” the title song from the latest James Bond movie, which they performed in black formalwear in front of a large orchestra earlier in the broadcast.