Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Am I Black Enough For You

Billy Paul: Am I Black Enough For You



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UK release date 03.07.2009

For those of you that don’t know the artist Billy Paul, shame on you for one, but let me give you a little help if his work has eluded or maybe you’ve just forgotten (shame on you x2). Billy Paul shot to fame with a little ol’ song called ‘Me and Mrs Jones’, yep you know the song... “We got a thing going on...” that’s right, now you’ve got it...

This song shot, said singer, to instant global fame spending four weeks at number one in 1972. The release that was to follow this classic however, shot the same singer with both barrels to world infamy. Written by Kenny Gamble; Gamble, he of Gamble and Huff multi Grammy winning – 100 million selling - song writing partnership fame. It was Gamble’s brain-wave to follow up one of the best songs known to man (or women) with another song that he’d written called ‘Am I Black Enough For You’, which ironically proved a Gamble in itself. The song was bigger than any artist, as the message portrayed would have a profound effect within both the music world and political world alike. This was at a time when black artists were struggling to be taken seriously - Paul now commanded respect and Gamble knew this making the singer his vehicle to convey the message - 'I'm proud to be a black man'. This song was pivotal in Paul’s career making him a hero in the eyes of some, and villain in the eyes of others as the mostly white record buying public didn't like the political connotations and racial overtones of the song. After all ‘Me and Mrs Jones’ was a romantic song that crossed all divides making it an instant classic. ‘Am I Black Enough For you’ on the other hand, it was claimed, reinstated those boundaries and created divide- taking Paul from famous to infamous in just a few choruses.

This film gives a blow by blow account from all involved in this explosive story, in turn giving the viewer a ringside seat in this most interesting of subject matter. We hear all sides of this intriguing story from Paul, wife Blanche Williams and Kenny Gamble who all talk in the frankest manor – at times surprisingly so, about the decisions and the impact this song made. Lighting the touch paper of views we also hear from label mogul Clive Davis, artists Quest Love and Schoolly D amongst esteemed others giving their take on the saga and what really happened.

The film itself is shot in true documentary style, with a gritty and at times surprisingly candid look at this chain of events - following Paul as he recounts the decisions that mapped his life. His drug addiction, his marriage, his sudden found fame and the effect the fallout from ‘Am I Black Enough’ had/ has on both his professional and personal life. There’s a lot of soul searching in this film from Paul as it is apparent that he still battles with the choices made.

You can’t review this documentary without talking about the superb soundtrack which links the views of the interviewees perfectly. One thing that isn’t in doubt from start to finish, like the writing through a stick of Blackpool rock, is Paul’s talent. As we switch between dialogue and song care of the singers silky vocals you realise it’s not just the writer, but Paul’s deft vocals that go hand in hand to make an all time great track. In my view this film is a must for music fans, as it takes you behind the scenes and more – absolutely compulsive viewing. You see the real Billy Paul warts and all and can’t fail to give 10 out of 10 on all fronts.

Read Lee Tyler's INTERVIEW with soul legend Billy Paul.

You can catch Billy Paul in the must see documentry 'Am I Black Enough For You' at a cinema near you soon - for cinema details CLICK HERE

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