How Baz Luhrmann's The Get Down unearthed a disco gem
As recent q guest Nelson George discussed in an interview with Tom Power, Baz Luhrmann's series The Get Down recently returned on Netflix as The Get Down Part II to complete the show's first season. Set in the gritty Bronx in the late 1970s, the show follows promising young MC Books and his circle of friends during disco's heyday and hip-hop's birth.
Books's girlfriend Mylene (Herizen F. Guardiola) is a budding disco singer who performs "I'll Keep my Light in my Window" — a song recorded by a number of soul and R&B singers including Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye — on a Soul Train-esque show called Platinum Boogie. As Mylene's character is constantly balancing secular and spiritual issues, this song perfectly fit the situation, according to The Get Down's composer Elliott Wheeler, who also worked with Luhrmann on his film The Great Gatsby and produced The Get Down's version of "I'll Keep my Light in the Window."
"The fantastic thing about that was that we were looking, obviously, for something for Mylene's character, something that would have the Pentecostal and religious aspect to it and a disco feel to it," says Wheeler. "I think it was Nelson George or our friends at Sony that pointed us towards this community choir who were a group in the '70s who were doing exactly that."
"A church choir doing all these incredible disco cuts," Wheeler continues, "and we were actually lucky enough to be able to get in there and get their masters and take their track and remix it and reproduce it with Herizen and Shyrley Rodriguez (who plays Regina) and the Soul Madonnas actually singing all the backups and make it into our own version."
"But actually having something that was authentically from the New York Community Choir, it was absolutely sensational. It fitted just perfectly with our story and when Baz discovered that, a massive light went off. It was like, 'That has to be something that we keep coming back to.'"
— Del Cowie, q digital staff