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Subject: Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Obit

Written By: ChrisBodilyTM on 09/23/21 at 2:13 am

Legendary filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles, most famous for his pioneering Blaxploitation classic Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, has died. He was 89. Sweetback was released just months before Shaft, directed by Gordon Parks and starring Richard Roundtree. The soundtrack was written by a then-little known band called Earth, Wind & Fire. (Yes, the "September" guys.) Van Peebles famously shot the film independently (with funding from... a certain comedian who has since been disgraced) after the studios turned him down. It was released with an X rating, which Van Peebles decided to capitalize on ("Rated X by an all-white jury").

Sweetback was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry in 2020.

Melvin was also the father of Mario Van Peebles, with whom he often collaborated. Mario played his father in the biopic Baadasssss!

Melvin wrote several plays and a novel, Panther, which he adapted into a film. He also recorded a few albums, including one in 1974 called What the ... You Mean I Can't Sing. His previous albums were all spoken word.

A Criterion box set of his films including Sweetback, The Story of a Three Day Pass, Watermelon Man, and Don't Play Us Cheap will be released Tuesday.

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