2009 Certificate: 12


Low-fi documentary about Philly soul legend Billy Paul, best known for the 1972 classic Me And Mrs Jones. The hit was to be a career high as audiences were divided by the confrontational follow-up Am I Black Enough For You, a militant anthem Billy never intended for release. But, variously fuelled by oppression, drugs and the love of a good woman, Billy's still performs while his music continues to influence and inspire.


  • Göran Olsson


  • Documentary


Billy Paul may not be the biggest or most significant player in the history of soul music, but his longevity is remarkable given that his career peaked well before the end of the Vietnam war.

The peak was wedding reception favourite Me And Mrs Jones, a song written about a certain lady introduced to Billy by Muhammed Ali. We're promised more on that later.

But actually we never do get to hear the full story of the real Mrs Jones. It's just one of many omissions from this cheerful but undeniably cheap scrapbook by Goran Hugo Olsson, the Swedish auteur behind the equally provocatively titled F*** You, F*** You Very Much, a documentary about barmy rap artist Leila K.

You get the feeling that Olsson expected something more inflammatory from his subjects, especially Kenny Gamble, the controversial record producer who alienated both Billy and most of his audience by releasing the slightly less touchy-feely Am I Black Enough For You straight after Mrs Jones.

Instead we get lots of marital harmony from Billy and his wife/manager Blanche and big-ups from obscure artists like crazy-haired Questlove from The Roots and hip-hop nobody Schoolly D.

Billy's story is interesting enough. His grandfather was killed by the Ku Klux Klan, his rise to prominence coincided with the civil rights movement, and - particularly relevantly right now - his inevitable descent into drugs ended after an epiphany initiated by Michael Jackson's Man In The Mirror.

But as Olsson resorts to his umpteenth Philadelphia cityscape, it's clear that there isn't enough imagery to cover the narrative. This is a 50-minute radio programme stuck in 90 minutes of pixels.

That said, two moments are worth waiting for. The first is Billy concentrating wholly on his burger while Blanche pours heart and soul into her account of how they met. The other is the look on the white sax player's face as Billy and the crowd get down to Am I Black Enough...

Mrs Jones might be long gone, but this cat has still got a thing going on.