WEEKEND EDITION

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

February 22, 2012 4:00 AM video

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.

More My New York…

  • Shawn B

    Hi I just thought you should know that there are several videos using this song for the OWS protest. The one you have is made by Cypher Films and was one of several later ones. The first is the one using only footage from OWS itself which is here : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGKuX8akRzw

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