Cotton Comes to Harlem

Written by Ossie Davis, Arnold Perl and Chester Himes (novel)
Directed by Ossie Davis
Music by Galt MacDermot
Produced by Samuel Goldwyn Jr.

"From the hit movie 'Cotton Comes to Harlem' comes a hit score composed by HAIR genius Galt MacDermot whose pop soul blends are not only entertaining and tuneful in their own right but performed by 'Purlie' Tony Award winning Melba Moore, Leata Galloway and others, the score is a bulls eye. Miss Moore sings 'Black Enough' and 'My Salvation' and there are plenty of top songs to flatter the flick, MacDermot and his effort."

Cotton Comes to Harlem was a commercial hit. Produced on a budget of $1.2 million, it earned $5.2 million in theatrical rentals during its North American release, making it the 20th highest grossing film of 1970. The film was one of the many black films that appeared in the 1970s and became an overnight hit. Davis parleyed both humor and drama together and got a film that worked: he also attracted a black audience, which helped make the film a cult classic over the years. It inspired more black films during the '70s, including more action-packed numbers like Shaft and Super Fly . The film inspired the sequel Come Back, Charleston Blue, based on original material instead of Chester Himes' works.

One of the most influential Soul Cinema pix ever to shoot onto the screen, Cotton Comes To Harlem spawned the blaxploitation boom by delivering a "refreshingly different detective action yarn with soul and humor" (Cue) and an unbeatable mix of "fast-paced adventure [and] comic lunacy" (Pacific Film Archive).

"Cotton Comes to Harlem" is a solid, funny, and most of all, cool movie which was, besides "Shaft" and "Coffy," to set the trend of the black movies of the 70s. Look how Godfrey Cambridge and Raymond St. Jacques walk and talk, and you'll know the meaning of "style."

Galt MacDermot, one of the writers of Hair, wrote Cotton Comes to Harlem’s score, and the song he comes up with for this routine is one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever heard. It’s as if someone said “take the title of this movie and bring me back a song.”
Himes on Harlem: We Kick Cotton's Ass

You'll never mistake Galt McDermot's composing style for any other. HAIR is the most known. But during this period, McDermot stuck with his funky soul theater style.
Cotton Comes To Harlem was a 1970 film about two cops looking for eighty thousand stolen bucks in a bail of cotton. Ossie Davis directed.
This being a film score gives McDermot opportunities he would not have composing for stage. His soundtrack contains more instrumentals and wonderful funky interludes. These don't deviate from the composer you know--those wha wha guitars and bass spitting out syncopations are in tact. The vocal tracks are also charming and work as soul tracks. Music in 1970 was more funky than when Hair was composed in 1967, and you'll notice this sounds slightly more like an out and out funk album than Hair's theater moves.