Funky. Emotional. Raw. Powerful. That was soul music in the Civil Rights era and Stax Records did it like no other label. Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story traces the astonishing history of Stax, from a modest neighborhood hangout to a cultural and political empire.
Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story aired this summer on PBS’ Great Performances, earning raves from the media. Now, in its 50th anniversary year, Stax Records, reactivated by Concord Music Group, releases the DVD version of the documentary on in the Anamorphic Widescreen format.
Respect Yourself was directed by the Grammy®-nominated team of Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville and is a production of Tremolo Productions, Concord Music Group and Thirteen/WNET New York. Samuel L. Jackson narrated the 113-minute documentary, which contains interviews with Isaac Hayes, Mavis Staples, Carla Thomas, Sam Moore, Booker T. Jones, Eddie Floyd and Jesse Jackson. Also featured are rarely seen full-length performances by Otis Redding, Booker T & the MGs and Isaac Hayes, plus outtakes of footage from the legendary 1972 Wattstax concert. Included also is the first interview by Stax founder and co-owner Jim Stewart in 15 years, plus never-before-seen home movies and performances by Stax artists.
The package also adds bonus content not seen on the PBS airing: footage from the Stax Reunion rehearsal at SXSW 2007 in Austin, Texas, featuring Eddie Floyd, William Bell and Booker T & the MGs.
The Southern city of Memphis was a hotbed of racial tension, but that stopped at the doors of Stax Records. The open-door policy led to the formation of renowned house band Booker T & the MGs, one of America’s first interracial groups. Other artists like Otis Redding and Sam & Dave soon joined the roster, as well as songwriters Isaac Hayes and David Porter. With songs like “Sittin’ On The Dock of the Bay,” “Soul Man” and “Knock on Wood,” Stax solidified its reputation as a hit-making machine, producing a massive catalog of Top 100 records.
Through all of this, the label overcame hustlers, bad business decisions, tragic deaths and a number of financial meltdowns. But with each reincarnation, Stax grew, branching out into film production and Broadway, and affirming its solidarity with the civil rights movement, before its demise in 1975.
Respect Yourself provides first-hand accounts of what really happened on the streets and behind studio doors from the Stax musicians as well as label president Al Bell, Rev. Jesse Jackson and others. With rare performances, unreleased home movies and new recordings, filmmakers Gordon and Neville (The Emmy Award-winning Hank Williams: Honky Tony Blues) present the first comprehensive look at Stax Records, the greatest soul label of all time.
“Respect Yourself explains why the studio's legacy matters. It is both a celebration and a cautionary tale,” wrote the Los Angeles Times. Echoed Daily Variety: “Without making a direct declaration, Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville's bracingly impressive docu Respect Yourself makes a great case for Stax Records as the greatest soul label ever.” And The New York Times added: “The documentary provides an essential account of auteurism in one of American music’s greatest eras.”