How The Music of Spike Lee's 'BlacKkKlansman' Turned a Nazi Slogan Into an Oscar Nod

Feb 20, 2019
Originally published on February 27, 2019 4:25 pm

Terence Blanchard wrote his first piece of music for a Spike Lee joint nearly 30 years ago. The movie was Mo' Better Blues, which revolves around a brooding jazz trumpeter played by Denzel Washington. Blanchard was on set to ghost those trumpet parts, but at one point, Spike heard him playing a theme at the piano, and asked him to write an accompanying string arrangement.

That moment kicked off a collaboration that has now spanned well over a dozen films, from Jungle Fever and Malcolm X up through BlacKkKlansman, which yielded first-time Academy Award nominations for both artists (in the categories of Best Director, Best Picture and Best Original Score.) Blanchard's haunting main theme for BlacKkKlansman, "Blut Und Boden (Blood and Soil)," also just won Best Instrumental Composition at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards.

In this short video, Terence Blanchard reveals his creative process to compose "Blut und Boden (Blood and Soil)," citing inspiration from Jimi Hendrix's performance of "The Star Spangled Banner" from Woodstock in 1969.

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