Monday, August 29, 2016

Chart Song Cinema: Claudine (1974)

Directed by John Berry, Claudine infiltrated the early seventies blaxploitation film market with something different: a sympathetic look at a single mother, played by Diahann Carroll, who struggles to raise a large family in the deep city. James Earl Jones plays her love interest, a strong garbage collector whose laudable sensitivity threatens to function as a fatal flaw.

Although the film posters billed Claudine as "a heart and soul comedy," the sobering food-for-thought factors overshadow any laughs. (The American Welfare System turns in an especially fine performance as the villain.) Giving the film added edge are the Harlem visuals and the music written and produced by Curtis Mayfield, Mr. Superfly himself.


Gladys Knight and the Pips - "On and On" (Billboard #5, entered 5/25/74; R&B, #2). Written and produced by Curtis Mayfield. LP: Claudine (Buddah 1974). 45: "On and On"/"The Makings of You" (Buddah, 1974).

Gladys Knight and the Pips perform all the music on Claudine, with the hit single "On and On" exploding in the opening credits as the big-screen urban scenes unfold. Here's a rare situation, though, where a film made a song seem better than it actually was. (It's usually the other way around.) No one who experiences "On and On" away from the film would rank it with Knight's or Mayfield's best work.

Gladys Knight and the Pips - "On and On"

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