SXSW FILM 2010
By Don Simpson | March 11, 2010
Director: Jonathan Furmanski
Clarence Harry Reid, along with his songwriting partner Willie Clarke, wrote almost 1,000 R&B songs in the 1960s and 1970s for the Miami-based TK Records including Betty Wright’s “Clean Up Woman,” Gwen McCrae’s “Rockin Chair,” KC and the Sunshine Band’s “Sound Your Funky Horn.” Reid is also known as Blowfly, the original dirty rapper. He is the oft-proclaimed inventor of rap music (he recorded his first Blowfly album in 1971); to hear it from Blowfly, Sugarhill Gang’s “mammies were wearing diapers when I was doing rap.”
The Weird World of Blowfly starts in 2008. Donning a sparkly sequins superhero suit, Blowfly (at age 69) is on a comeback tour. (In 2003, Reid sold the rights to his entire catalog of songs to pay off debt, so he now sees no royalty income from his body of work.) Almost all of his audience is white (a mix of punk rockers and college kids); then again, Reid does not seem to have much respect for black people – so maybe its better this way. Then Blowfly is off to Germany to open for Die Arzte, and back to Miami for a Clarence Reid festival.
Blowfly seems to be an idol (maybe even a god) to Ice-T, Chuck D (Public Enemy), Norwood Fisher (Fishbone), Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), The Red Hot Chili Peppers and the aforementioned Die Arzte. The more I thought about it, I wondered what someone like Biafra would see in Blowfly that was so great, but then he said it himself – he likes his “deliciously degenerate attitude toward the world.” Okay, I get that. And I get that he was groundbreaker; he was adventurous and ironic; he dealt openly and bluntly with subjects like race and sex…but I think I’m missing something here.
The best parts of The Weird World of Blowfly are watching Reid interact with his manager/drummer Tommy (Reid talking with his mother – whom he still lives with – is pretty classic too). As Tommy sees it, Reid’s job is to perform and then wait for the next gig. The problem is Reid wants to have more involvement in the day to day stuff and he really doesn’t want to be treated like a baby…however, I would venture my non-professional opinion to guess that Reid is more than a wee bit insane – so let’s just say that Tommy has his hands full.
No matter how one feels about Blowfly – as long as you aren’t too put off by raunchy humor and blunt comments about race – The Weird World of Blowfly is an intriguing documentary about a very fascinating guy. (There, I said it, Blowfly is fascinating.) Jonathan Furmanski’s documentary is also a very informative look at the economics surrounding the comeback of a dirty rapper who is rapidly approaching 70-years old.