Jamie Foxx's 'Thunder Soul' Brings the Funk
Documentary shows how high school band took world by storm
The Kashmere Stage Band was one of the baddest bands in Texas. From 1968 to 1977, the students at Kashmere High School in Houston played “the funk” on classical instruments, complete with large Afros, platform shoes and bell bottoms. They also garnered the attention of the surrounding predominantly black community, Kashmere Gardens, as well as record executives. The stage band recorded eight albums during it’s lifespan and even traveled to Japan on the governor of Alabama’s dime, George. C. Wallace. A fete, especially during a time of blind racism and strict segregation.
And although the band trained many legendary musicians including jazz drummer Bubbha Thomas, the success of Kashmere Stage Band was thanks to one man inspired by an Otis Redding concert in 1967: Conrad “Prof” Johnson. The music teacher had such a profound impact on his students musically and personally, so much that alumni gathered nearly 30 years later in 2008 to honor their leader, who was 92 at the time.
“Thunder Soul,” released in theaters nationwide today, documents those thirty alumni of Kashmere High as they return to dust off their instruments, re-learn the steps and the chords for a concert to honor “Prof.”
“I want him to know that we didn’t forget. We didn’t forget how to do it,” one alumnus said during the film.
The award-winning documentary is narrated and produced by Texas native Jamie Foxx, a Grammy Award winning singer who released his fourth studio album last year.
“As soon as I saw [the movie], I said, is there any way I can get the word out? I watched it in my office and I was brought to tears. It moves you, man,” Foxx told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “You gotta believe in magic and miracles.”
“Thunder Soul” takes the viewer down memory lane with archival footage that shows the genius behind Prof. He instilled a confidence in his students that made them believe they could play like the professionals. It was that simple mindset that gave them the ability to shine above the rest.
The poignant interviews of the now middle-aged students in between the footage show just how much they love their teacher. Prof’s health declining in the final scenes of the film add a special note to the documentary, making it sing brighter.
“Thunder Soul” is rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 31 minutes.