Da 5 Bloods Soundtrack Is As Political As The Film Itself

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Warning: Spoilers are ahead for Da 5 Bloods.
Spike Lee's Da 5 Bloods on Netflix is a Vietnam war movie that shows the human cost of that battle. The film, streaming now, focuses on four Black Vietnam veterans who have come back to the country to bring home their fallen friend, played by Black Panther's Chadwick Boseman, and a buried treasure.
However, it's more than a war movie, it's also a political film that looks at the trauma these Black men endured. First, on the battlefield and then again when they returned home to a land that wasn't interested in fighting for them. It feels appropriate that every song in the Da 5 Bloods is as political as the film itself.
Da 5 Bloods soundtrack is mainly comprised of songs from Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, a 1971 concept album told from the POV of a Vietnam veteran returning home to realise there is no justice and no peace for Black GIs. At the time, Gaye told Rolling Stone that he "was very much affected by letters my brother was sending me from Vietnam, as well as the social situation here at home." He took the grief and frustrations he and so many others were feeling and wrote songs that "would reach the souls of people," he said. "I wanted them to take a look at what was happening in the world."
Now, Lee is asking viewers to do the same thing. Each song in Da 5 Bloods becomes more than a song, but a message to those listening, if they choose to hear it: history repeats itself. The songs not only tell the story of the Vietnam War, but how it affected Black men and women disproportionately to white men and women. The messages sung by Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, and Freda Payne are not all that different than the ones we are hearing in the protests across the world following the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer.
These songs are from the '70s and have previously appeared in movies like Apocalypse Now and The Birth Of A Nation. That context is no coincidence. Lee is repeating these songs, just as history repeats itself. And they will repeat again if America doesn't start listening.

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