Jackie Brown might be one of Quentin Tarantino’s most underappreciated films, but there’s no denying its brilliance. Starring Pam Grier and Samuel L Jackson, the film plays tribute to 1970s blaxploitation movies like Foxy Brown and Coffy, both of which Grier starred in. As you’d expect from Tarantino, the soundtrack is as thrilling as the film itself, stuffed with obscure hits and well-remembered classics from the ’70s. If you’re ready to take a walk down memory lane, here’s how we rank all the songs from the Jackie Brown soundtrack.
13. Long Time Woman – Pam Grier
Pam Grier recorded Long Time Woman in the early 1970s, just before she became what Quentin Tarantino has described as cinema’s first female action star and long, long before she starred in Jackie Brown. According to reports, Grier didn’t know Tarantino was going to use the song in the film until she turned up to the premier.
12. Natural High – Bloodstone
Released as the first single and titular track from Bloodstone’s second album, Natural High gave the band their first major hit, reaching number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the summer of 1973.
11. Midnight Confessions – The Grass Roots
Midnight Confessions was originally recorded by the Ever-Green Blues, but it’s The Grass Roots’ cover that’s become the best-known version. Released as a standalone single in 1968, the song became the highest-charting success of the band’s career, taking them to the top 5 in both the US and Canada.
10. The Lions and the Cucumber – The Vampire Sound Incorporation
The Jackie Brown soundtrack is nothing if not eclectic. Cozying up against the smooth soul of Bill Withers’ Who Is He (And What Is He to You)? and the countrified charm of Johnny Cash’s Tennessee Stud is this song by The Vampire Sound Incorporation, an obscure psychedelic rock band from Germany best known for their work on the soundtrack of the 1971 erotic horror, Vampyros Lesbos. There’s no point trying to understand the what’s, why’s, or how’s of The Lions and the Cucumber, but the fact it’s too weird for words is all part of its charm.
9. Monte Carlo Nights – Elliot Easton’s Tiki Gods
Elliot Easton is best known as the lead guitarist for The Cars, but he’s also made some excellent music with his other projects, including this sublime track from 1995 with the Tiki Gods.
8. Tennessee Stud – Johnny Cash
Tennessee Stud was first recorded by Jimmy Driftwood in 1958 and subsequently covered by a slew of artists like Eddy Arnold, Hank Williams Jr., Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Country Joe McDonald, and Porter Wagoner. Of all the covers, it’s Johnny Cash’s that worked its way onto the Jackie Brown soundtrack.
7. (Holy Matrimony) Letter to the Firm – Foxy Brown
Foxy Brown gives us a brief respite from the 1970s on this next track, (Holy Matrimony) Letter to the Firm. The song first appeared on Brown’s platinum-selling debut album, Ill Na Na, which became the first rap album by a female artist to chart in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 on its release in 1996. Listen out for the samples of Isaac Hayes’ Ike’s Mood and Mary J. Blige’s I Love You.
6. Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) – The Delfonics
This early example of Philly soul was co-written by Thom Bell and William Hart and first recorded by Hart’s group the Delfonics in 1969. It became a major hit, reaching number 3 on the R&B singles chart and number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also managed to snap up a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.
5. Street Life – Randy Crawford
In 1979, The Crusaders earned a top 40 hit with Street Life. The vocals came courtesy of Randy Crawford, who revisited the song as a solo artist in 1981 for the soundtrack of Sharky’s Machine. It’s that version that appears on the soundtrack of Jackie Brown.
4. Inside My Love – Minnie Riperton
Inside My Love is a game of two halves. On the one hand, there’s Minnie Riperton with her sweetly angelic vocals. On the other, there’s that seductive, slow beat and those double entendre-filled lyrics. A slow, dirty jam with an angelic face and a filthy mind, the song gave Riperton a top 30 R&B hit in 1975.
3. Who Is He (And What Is He to You)? – Bill Withers
Bill Withers injects plenty of his usual soulful charm into this gorgeous track from his 1972 album, Still Bill. Since its release, the song’s been covered by dozens of artists, including Gladys Knight & The Pips, Creative Source, and Meshell Ndegeocello.
2. Across 110th Street – Bobby Womack and Peace
Written by Bobby Womack and J.J. Johnson and released by Bobby Womack and Peace in 1973, this hugely influential song has proved a major inspiration for numerous artists, not least 50 Cent, who described it to NME as the first song that he fell in love with “because of how the situation was for black people in America at that time, there were a lot of struggle songs around. It seemed to be something that really moved the people around me. I felt the power of music to raise people up; to make them angry or proud.”
1. Strawberry Letter 23 – The Brothers Johnson
As Far Out Magazine says, the Brothers Johnson’s Strawberry Letter 23 is used to devastating effect in Jackie Brown, featuring heavily in some of the film’s most pivotal moments. It was originally recorded by Shuggie Otis for his 1971 album Freedom Flight, but it’s this Qunicy Jones-produced cover that everyone remembers best. Released as a single in 1977, it stormed to number 1 on the U.S. Billboard R&B chart and number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. This being the ’70s, the single was pressed on red strawberry-scented vinyl and released in a strawberry-scented sleeve.