Music Monday: “The Sound of Young America” on the big screen “Nothing But A Man” (1964)

Editor’s Note: Larry Jones, our very own resident DJ spinning soulful tunes in the office, puts on his sharkskin suit and heads to the height of the Civil Rights movement with his favorite soundtrack.

“Nothing But A Man” Soundtrack (1964)

I discovered “Nothing But A Man” by osmosis. It was one of those films that was in constant play during my childhood. By the time I actually sat down and lived with the movie as a teenager, the songs were far more a part of me than the story, powerful as it is.

If I’m correct, this is the only full soundtrack contribution to a film Motown records did during their “Golden Era” between 1959 to 1968. Unlike the 3 Movie themes The Supremes made, or “Come Spy With Me” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, it contains “everyday” Motown: The songs you would have heard in the background of everyday African American life in the early to mid 1960s.

This superbly ties the thread that the movie is about ordinary 1960s African American life, creating a snapshot of a life I knew of by proxy, but not personal experience. This is the music my dad snuck into pool halls to as a teenager, the music that was in the background as my mother read “Where The Wild Things Are” as a toddler.

Nothing But A Man Album

The timeless nature of the songs, expressing universal emotional concerns and desires, even the throwaways like “This Is When I Need You Most” by Martha & The Vandellas became part of my daily life some 20 years later. It’s not like later Motown adjacent soundtracks that rely on the well worn #1 hits we all know (*Cough* The Big Chill soundtrack). It sits down and opens up albums long lost to the memory. It is the soundtrack to Saturday laundry for at least 3 generations of my family.


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