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Jefferson Root Written by Jefferson Root
Sep. 22, 2011 | 6:21 PM

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To put it kindly, the music of Clarence “Blowfly” Reid is an acquired taste.  Whether or not Reid’s backstory of crafting his dirty rhymes to antagonize his white bosses down on the farm is true, you either want to hear somebody singing about “a spermy night in Georgia” or you don’t.  But for those that do (and the aforementioned number is tame by Blowfly standards), director Jonathan Furmanski’s new documentary The Weird World of Blowfly is a fascinating glimpse into the life of an influential, but largely forgotten artist.

Instead of giving us a comprehensive overview of Reid’s career, the film focuses mainly on the present, as Reid tries to resurrect the Blowfly brand.  He’s aided in this by his manager/tour drummer Tom Bowker, who’s convinced that Reid is ripe for a comeback.  We get a good glimpse of how this quest is going early in the film, where Bowker knocks on Reid’s motel room door before the first show of a West Coast tour in Eugene, Oregon.

“The show’s a bomb,” Bowker begins.  “We’ll do a short set and you can go back to sleep.”  Reid nods knowingly, and we cut to him peforming on stage in his Blowfly costume before a mostly empty club.  After the show, Bowker laments making a deal for a percentage of ticket sales for a show that barely drew twenty five people, but that’s show biz, and the next day it’s on to Seattle.

The dynamic between Bowker, a white man in his thirties and Reid, an African-American pushing 70 is one of the most fascinating elements of “Weird World.”  Long a fixture of the music scene in Miami, Reid had a successful career as a singer and songwriter long before he created the Blowfly persona in the early 70’s.  Performing onstage in a cape and mask like some sort of kinky superhero, Blowfly made a name for himself by performing dirty parodies of popular R & B tunes, as well as equally raunchy originals like “Rap Dirty.”

The film demonstrates that Reid’s work has had substantial influence in the music world.  In addition to writing a number of hits which helped launch KC and the Sunshine Band,  Reid also did pioneering work in the hip-hop genre.  He may or may not be the “first rapper”, as he claims in hilarious digs at old school rappers like the Sugar Hill Gang, but the filmmakers bring in no less than Ice T and Public Enemy’s Chuck D to testify to Reid’s effect on their work.

More surprising is the revelation that Blowfly is huge in Europe.  In a stark contrast to the small club gigs we see him doing in the States, Bowker is able to book Reid in a series of gigs opening for a popular German post punk band, Die Artze.  Like Bowker, the band members were huge fans of Reid, and jumped at the chance to be able to share a stage with him.  The sight of Blowfly and Die Arze performing Reid’s x-rated take on The Clash’s “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” in front of thousands of bewildered German teens is one of the film’s most hilarious moments.

There are some surprising and poignant moments as well.  Although Blowfly is a name well known in Miami, Reid hadn’t performed under his real name in the city for close to thirty years.  Late in the film, we see him performing as the featured guest at an epic birthday celebration for the city, and its clear that Reid is proud to have the chance to re-claim his more serious work.

For fans of Reid’s work, The Weird World of Blowfly will be just what the doctor ordered.  For the uninitiated, it’s a surreal look at the rough and tumble music biz , featuring one of that world’s most unique survivors.  More importantly, if watching Blowfly skewer Otis Redding while Isaac Hayes plays piano is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

The Weird World of Blowfly opens Friday, September 23rd at the Laemmle Sunset 5 in West Hollywood.

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