Listen: Ain’t It Hell Up In Harlem / Edwin Starr
Edwin Starr had some surprising US pop hits quite early on in his career curve. Surprising given they were precursors to Northern Soul, and usually those titles didn’t chart. That was the whole point. But ‘Agent Double-O-Soul’ (#21, ’65), ‘S.O.S. (Stop Her On Sight)’ (#48, ’66) and ’25 Miles’ (#6, ’69) all did well and even at the time, they had that magnetic something special.
By 1970, he switched up labels, leaving Ric Tic Records for Motown. Simultaneously trading in his soul stylings for the intense Vietnam protest diatribe ‘War’, he transformed a Temptations album track into a #1 chart story. But his US success was short lived.
Europe and the UK proved more loyal, and given the nature of his earlier hits, Edwin Starr relocated to England in ’73. Ironically, during ’74, he recorded a very American ‘Ain’t It Hell Up In Harlem’, main title of the HELL UP IN HARLEM film, itself an official sequel to BLACK CAESAR.
Despite a slightly cluttered arrangement, the track perfectly snapshots the sound of Blaxploitation, a near official genre, briefly prevalent at that time and very much synonymous with grainy, washed out color cinema.