For over 30 years, Spike Lee has directed some the most thought-provoking and riveting films in the history cinema. In addition to his movies, Lee also knows how to deliver a great soundtrack.
Starting in 1989 with the Do the Right Thing soundtrack (and the powerful song “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy), Lee curates music that explore African-American themes or conveys a message that is poignant the times. Recently, the 61-year-old director revealed that the end credits his new film BlacKkKlansman will feature Prince’s cover the Negro spiritual, “Mary Don’t You Weep.”
In honor Spike Lee releasing his new flick BlacKkKlansman, we take a look back at some the best songs from his acclaimed movies.
The Girl 6 soundtrack featured songs written and produced by the late and great Prince. The project included previously released tunes from the Purple One as well as three new songs: "She Spoke 2 Me, "Don't Talk 2 Strangers” and the title track by the New Power Generation. The song incorporates bits turntable scratching, sound bites from the film and Prince’s voice as well. Marvin Gaye’s daughter, Nona Gaye, is also featured on it.
Arguably, Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing soundtrack is one the best albums 1989. Not only did the songs fit perfectly with Lee’s thought-provoking movie about racial tensions in a Brooklyn neighborhood, it was the perfect soundtrack for the summer 1989. Take 6’s doo-wop song addresses the problematic issue guns being used to resolve conflict in the ‘hood. There are a few more tunes from the soundtrack that will appear on this list.
Get on the Bus is another great film from Lee. The movie tells the story about a group African-American men who take a cross-country bus trip to the Million Man March in Washington, D.C. in 1995. Michael Jackson's "On the Line" appears in the end credits the film but was omitted from the soundtrack.
Spike Lee and Public Enemy have teamed up on a variety soundtracks, including one for Do the Right Thing. For his 1998 basketball film He Got Game, the director tapped P.E. for the movie's accompanying soundtrack. With the assistance the influential production team the Bomb Squad, Chuck D and his crew delivered political songs about the bastardization basketball and the false notion that dribbling a ball is a golden ticket for black youths to get out the ‘hood. The title track samples Buffalo Springfield’s 1966 song, "For What It's Worth"
Spike Lee tackles the taboo subject (at least during the '90s) interracial dating with his provocative 1991 film Jungle Fever starring Wesley Snipes. The soundtrack features songs entirely composed by soul icon Stevie Wonder. On the title track, the veteran piano man sings about people criticizing him about his interracial romance. “I've got jungle fever, she's got jungle fever / We've got jungle fever, we're in love / She's gone black-boy crazy, I've gone white-girl hazy / Ain't no thinking maybe, we're in love,” Stevie sings on the memorable hook.
Spike Lee's 2000 film Bamboozled is dark satire on the entertainment industry, so who better to deliver a poignant message about Hollywood’s lack diversity than Chuck D. The blistering song “Burned Hollywood Burned, is a sequel to Public Enemy’s 1990 Fear a Black Planet track "Burn Hollywood Burn” featuring Ice Cube and Big Daddy Kane. On the new song, Chuck, the Roots’ Black Thought and Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de la Rocha spit fiery lyrics about black stereotypes in films that Hollywood loves to perpetuate and embrace.
From Spike Lee’s Crooklyn soundtrack, the posse track “Crooklyn” is a fantastic Brooklyn anthem by the Crooklyn Dodgers, which consists Buckshot, Masta Ace and Special Ed. The song features the three rhymers saluting their beloved borough Brooklyn, N.Y., and recalling their childhood memories growing up in BK.
From the Get on the Bus soundtrack, “New World Order,” is one Curtis Mayfield’s last tunes he recorded after being paralyzed in a freak accident. The song fits perfectly with Spike’s film, as Mayfield urges for peace and solidarity among people different ethnic backgrounds.
Spike Lee’s 1995 film Clockers is a murder mystery as well as a revolving narrative about drug dealers and the police who bust them. Spike delivers a gut punch at the opening credits with graphic photos shooting victims. But playing throughout is Marc Dorsey’s urgent song "People in Search a Life." Dorsey's Stevie Wonder-esque vocals sets the tone for the movie. It's a perfect mesh music and film. the video below contains graphic images shooting victims. Viewers discretion is advised.
The New Jack Swing sound was at his peak in 1989 and Spike Lee was smart to include the genre’s creator and innovator Teddy Riley and Guy on his Do the Right Thing soundtrack. The party jam “My Fantasy” was a perfect fit on the project and it gave Guy another No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hip-Hop/R&B Songs chart.
The second group Crooklyn Dodgers consists lyricists Chubb Rock, O.C. and Jeru da Damaja. Produced by the great DJ Premier, “Return the Crooklyn Dodgers” appeared on the Clockers soundtrack. In 2007, a third group Crooklyn Dodgers was formed featuring Mos Def, Jean Grae and Memphis Bleek. The song “Brooklyn In My Mind” appears on 9th Wonder’s compilation, The Dream Merchant 2.
Spike Lee directed E.U.’s fun-filled video for “Da Butt,” a dance craze that was featured in his 1988 flick School Daze. Peep the early advent twerking before it became a thing in today’s rap videos.
The Mo’ Better Blues soundtrack featured music from the Branford Marsalis Quartet, Terence Blanchard and Spike Lee’s father Bill Lee. But the centerpiece is Gang Starr’s “A Jazz Thing.” On the song, the late Guru gives listeners an oral history on the creation jazz music.
Stevie Wonder knows how to craft a love song that will touch your heart and soul. On the Jungle Fever soundtrack, the Grammy-winning singer delivers the beautiful “These Three Words,” a clarion call for people to express their appreciation for loved ones while they are still here on earth.
If there’s one song that Spike Lee will be forever indebted for it would be Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.” Not only does the song fit perfectly in the memorable opening credits Do the Right Thing (salute to Rosie Perez), it’s anchors the entire film as the music that blasts from Radio Raheem’s gigantic boombox (R.I.P. to Bill Nunn). P.E.’s “Fight the Power” is, arguably, one the greatest rap songs in hip-hop history and Chuck D’s powerful lyrics are still relevant in today’s political climate. Spike also helmed the video as well.