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By the end of the 1970s, after about a decade of releasing music, Syl Johnson hadn't had much commercial success. A few years later, after he had left the music industry and started a chain of seafood restaurants, he discovered that his soul records were the source of a huge number of uncleared samples on early 1990s hip-hop records. While Johnson eventually made a living from licensing fees, he still has roughly 85 pending lawsuits against labels, rappers, and producers for uncleared samples.

Filmmakers Robert Hatch-Miller, Puloma Basu, and Michael Slaboch just launched a Kickstarter campaign to finish a new documentary about Syl Johnson's odd trajectory from music to seafood and back featuring awesome archival performance footage from his appearances on Soul Train, interviews with Ken Shipley from Johnson's new label Numero Group, and Syl's family and former bandmates.

Nothing Major Editor John Dugan emailed co-producer of the doc Michael Slaboch for more intel.

For those not familiar, who is Syl Johnson? Where would we know his music from? 
Syl's biggest hit was in 1975 when he went to #7 on the R&B chart with "Take Me To The River."  But as of late you've probably heard his music being sampled by artists such as Jay-Z and Kanye West, Wu-Tang Clan, Kid Rock, and hundreds of other artists.

What inspired you and Rob to make the doc and how long has it taken?
I've been working/collaborating with Syl since 2008 due to my affiliation with The Numero Group. We started shooting footage here in Chicago leading up to the very first Eccentric Soul Revue we produced in April 2009 at the Park West in Chicago. The rehearsals for that particular show where we made Syl learn all of these tunes he had never performed on stage before was when I first really noticed how fun, charming, and crazy Syl is in person and on camera. Since the show was such a success we took it on the road later that year, and I invited Rob to join Syl and I as we did a interviews at WFMU and WNYC. It was Rob that really planted the proverbial seed with Syl about making a film about him and his remarkable life, and we've been shooting on and off ever since.  

What kind of footage are you getting?
We've got about 50 hours of verité-style footage of everything from Syl gardening, to him talking to The New York Times, to life on the road, to just hanging out and being Syl.

Do you have much vintage period stuff to work with? Was that hard to find?
There's not much, unfortunately. We had to pay for the Soul Train footage, and he was on another episode as well which they can't seem to find in their archive. Beyond that, there's some amazing footage from 1975 and a few other odds and ends. But all in all, not much was filmed.

How does gardening figure in to the Syl Johnson story?
Syl has an amazing garden and he really seems to enjoy gardening all day in the summer. He shares organic vegetables with everyone in the neighborhood and really takes care of himself by eating healthy, juicing, and staying fit at 77 years old!

Where do you see this documentary going? Being viewed?
Our goal is to get into film festivals next year and hopefully get some distribution for theatrical, VOD, streaming, downloads, etc.

The editing can be the really tough part of a doc, making a compelling story out of ton of material and having to cut out detours that don't contribute to the central themes. Has that been tough to do? Or has it come naturally? 
A huge portion of this Kickstarter is going towards hiring an editor who can put this all into a compelling story. The elements are there for the most part, we need to shoot some more interviews, but for the most part the bulk of it has been done and some fresh eyes and ears will really bring it together. That's been the hardest part. Rob has done most of the editing and we've had a couple of other people and awesome volunteers log all of the footage so that we can pass it off in the most professional way possible to whomever ends up editing this amazing story. 

Check out the Syl Johnson: Any Way The Wind Blows trailer below, and back the project for a digital download of the film, admission to a private rough-cut screening, or a T-shirt designed by Jess Rotter at the bottom of the post.