How 'BlacKkKlansman's' Oscar-Nominated Score Reappropriated a Nazi Slogan

They yelled it in Germany, and more recently while marching through Virginia. Now Terence Blanchard has stood in the face and Nazis and used their words against them.  

When BlacKkKlansman only won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay on Sunday evening, it was a huge achievement for Spike Lee. He finally had his Academy Award. The movie, which touched millions, truly was the work of a great artist. and as the words and images came off the screen and into our brains. Spike Lee's secret weapon was behind it all, creating a score that would go on to be nominated for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures. 

That secret weapon is Terence Blanchard.  

Terence Blanchard's first Spike Lee joint was Mo' Better Blues, which revolves around a jazz trumpeter played by Denzel Washington. Blanchard was on set to be the guy who doubled Denzel. His music and style were not supposed to change the course of both their careers. But it did. 

During a break, Spike heard Blanchard 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. 

Blanchard's haunting main theme for BlacKkKlansman, "Blut Und Boden (Blood and Soil)," won Best Instrumental Composition at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards.

But its true achievement is in the title and the stand the song makes for America.

Check out this video essay where Blanchard explains the deeper meaning behind "Blood and Soil" and how Jimi Hendrix inspired him to create BlacKkKlansman's memorable musical score. 

It's incredible to see the emotional depth that transcends from the story to the music that accompanies the film. I really loved the score, but now I feel an emotional obligation when I hear it. As we talked about in our Terminator 2 score article, the music truly sets the tone for what's happening on the screen. But here it takes a much more important stand. It chronicles the struggle for African Americans in America. It harkens back to Jimi Hendrix's performance of the Star Spangled Banner, of everything that it meant, and then adds a layer from today. 

When that guitar kicks in and the symphony rises behind it, you can feel duty pushing at your back. You can feel the need to be the change. It's truly powerful.  

It's disturbing to think that the fight for racial equality and justice is an ongoing battle. So many people want to believe that the war was won by the Ron Stallworth's of yesterday, and not that this battle is raging year in and out. Blanchard captures the ominous tones of the Nazi call and answer but shows that when good people come together, it can be defeated and repurposed as a slogan meant to unify many people under the flag of one country. 

The musical core deepens the theme and message delivered by BlacKkKlansman and adds a cultural relevance that transcends time. This was the fight of our ancestors, but it's our fight too. What are you going to do about it? 

What's your favorite Terence Blanchard score? 

How do you plan to choose love over hate? 

Let us know in the comments! 

And listen to the entire BlacKkKlansman musical score. 

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3 Comments

Good article. But, the score didn't win an Oscar as the title indicates. It won a Grammy as indicated in the article.

February 27, 2019 at 8:49AM

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Jeff Payne
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Typo - fixed!

February 27, 2019 at 8:56AM, Edited February 27, 8:56AM

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Jason Hellerman
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:)

February 27, 2019 at 10:29AM

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Jeff Payne
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498