I remember the night I discovered this record like it was three minutes ago. It was 1999, and I was working at a record store across the street from the Lounge Ax in Chicago. I well-dressed man who looked to be in his 50s brought in a box of records to sell, saying that he was moving to Guam. He told me a short story about each one, how he acquired them, what they meant to him. I was happy to listen—there wasn't much to do because nobody ever shopped at that store.

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When he came to Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death by Melvin Van Peebles, he told a tale of how he met Van Peebles at a speaking engagement at the University of Chicago. The night had gone terribly, Van Peebles was difficult and hostile toward the audience, unhappy with the recent discovery of a manager's mismanagement of funds regarding the 1971 film Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. I'd already seen that movie and liked it a lot. There was more to his story that I don't remember now, but that record became one of my favorites. Filled with brilliant skits, funk tracks backed by Earth, Wind & Fire and well done poetry set to music, Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death is an unknown classic. How it hasn't been re-issued is a mystery to me.

Tracks as videos after the jump.