Melvin Van Peebles: Love, That’s Occupy Wall Street

February 22, 2012 at 4:00 am

I’ve been a jogger my entire life. In the late ’60s I was running in the early morning near 24th Street and Broadway. I saw this group of winos beating up on another wino, practically killing him because he had taken a double sip of the bottle they’d all been sharing. Seeing that struck  me and inspired an idea for a song that would become, “Love, That’s America,” a song I included in my 1970 film “Watermelon Man.

When I found out that the song had been co-opted by Occupy Wall Street, my jaw dropped. It went viral online. People were remixing it and mashing it up with videos from the protests. The time I wrote it was a time of social upheaval — the Stonewall Riots had just happened. Forty years later, the same thing was going down in the streets of New York City.

WATCH VIDEO: A video made by Occupy Wall Street protesters that incorporates Melvin Van Peeble’s 1968 song “Love, That’s America.”

Melvin Van Peebles has had a long and eclectic career. After serving in the U.S. Air Force as a young man, he directed independent films, including Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song,” which he wrote, produced, directed and starred in. He has also enjoyed a career as a musician and recording artist. In the 1980s he became the first black trader on the American Stock Exchange.

On Feb. 25 at 7 p.m., 92Y Tribeca will screen the 1967 film, “La Permission: The Story of a Three Day Pass,” followed by a Q&A with Van Peebles. The screening will be followed by a performance of his band widLaxative at 9 p.m.

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