Singer-songwriter Ben Harper has contributed a theme song, “Black Beauty,” for the timely new Peacock documentary “Black Boys,” which premieres on the new streaming service tonight. Watch and listen to his music video for his new composition below.
“Black Boys” is a film that narrows in not just along racial but along gender lines — a description of the doc places it “at the intersection of education, criminal justice and sports” — and director Sonia Lowman looked to the three-time Grammy winner for a song that could reflect the pride of Black men and boys specifically.
“It was an honor to have been asked to write a song for this culturally vital documentary,” Harper tells Variety. “After watching ‘Black Boys’ and discussing it in depth with Sonia, I went immediately to work on composing ‘Black Beauty.’ I am old-school and still love getting players in a room together, so a production of this scale during a pandemic was challenging, with quarantine. I was fortunate that the incredible musicians in my circle have taken it upon themselves to become circumstantial recording engineers, and thanks to modern recording technology and some FaceTime sessions, I was able to work by sending tracks back and forth over the Internet.”
Addressing the themes of the doc, Harper says, “Systemic racism is a communicable disease, to where each possible component of the virus needs to be isolated and analyzed to have a chance for a cure. We shouldn’t have to tell America that Black Lives Matter — we shouldn’t have to remind them that Black is beautiful — but unfortunately, if we do not continue to say this as loud and as proud as possible, we end up right back where we are today… again.”
Harper’s socially distanced contributors on the track — in addition to his own guitar, bass and percussion — included vocalists Travis Taylor, Keisha Gumbs and Karen Porter, drummer Oliver Charles, strings player Rebecca Schlappich and the horn trio of Ron Blake, Francisco Torres and James King.
“Black Boys” has Lowman tracking two-time Super Bowl champion Greg Scruggs, Sharif El Mekki, principal at a mostly Black charter school in Philadelphia, and young activists working on criminal justice reform in Chicago as they interact with youths. Along with many NFL and NBA all-stars and academics and politicos, others participating in the film range from rapper Vic Mensa to sports journalist Jemele Hill Key.