November 3, 2023

Rustin Soundtrack

About the Album

Rustin Soundtrack

By Grammy Award-winning saxophonist, composer and bandleader Branford Marsalis

The powerful story of Bayard Rustin, the openly gay Black civil rights leader who dedicated his life to a quest for racial equality, is finally getting the spotlight. Colman Domingo will play the driving force behind the 1963 March on Washington in a new film from DGA Award and three-time Tony Award-winning director George C. Wolfe (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom). The performance marks the Emmy winner’s first leading role in a feature film. 

For director George C. Wolfe, the project was an opportunity to spotlight Rustin as an example to aspire to. “He is a role model for what it means to be an American, what it means to daily, moment-to-moment, commit to democracy, commit to freedom, commit to possibility, commit to discovery, commit to passing on that which you know to other people,” Wolfe told Netflix in an interview conducted earlier this year. “Democracy is a muscle, and if you don't exercise it regularly, it ceases to function.”

In creating a song that would capture the energy of Rustin, Wolfe turned to his Ma Rainey collaborator (and 3-time Grammy winner) Branford Marsalis. Marsalis wrote “The Knowing,” an original song performed for the film by Ledisi, which will play over the film’s end credits. Marsalis turned to Rustin’s central relationship — between Bayard Rustin and preacher Elias Taylor (Johnny Ramey) for inspiration. “We (Ledisi and I) decided the song would have 2 dimensions: Part one would be sensual — relevant to Rustin’s feelings for Elias — and part two would be aspirational — how their actions would eventually lead to a world where people can simply exist,” Marsalis told Netflix. “She went off to write lyrics and came back with what you hear on the song.”

The architect of 1963’s momentous March on Washington, Bayard Rustin was one of the greatest activists and organizers the world has ever known. He challenged authority, never apologized for who he was, what he believed or who he desired. And he did not back down. He made history, and in turn, he was forgotten. Rustin shines a long overdue spotlight on the extraordinary man who, alongside giants like the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Ella Baker, dared to imagine a different world and inspired a movement in a march toward freedom.

Joining Domingo is a star-studded cast: Chris Rock as Roy Wilkins, Glynn Turman as A. Philip Randolph, Aml Ameen as Martin Luther King Jr., Gus Halper, CCH Pounder as Dr. Anna Hedgeman, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Johnny Ramey, Michael Potts, Lilli Kay, Jordan-Amanda Hall, Jakeem Powell, Grantham Coleman, Jamilah Rosemond, Jules Latimer, Maxwell Whittington-Cooper, Frank Harts, Kevin Mambo, Carra Patterson, Bill Irwin, Cotter Smith, Adrienne Warren, with Jeffrey Wright as Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Audra McDonald as Ella Baker.