Between Takes: Dennis Coffey Heads to Hollywood

In Episode 016 of Between Takes, Dennis Coffey talks about recording for the film “Black Belt Jones.”

Welcome to Between Takes; where artists and musicians tell stories about what happens behind the scenes.

WDET’s Sam Beaubien has been dedicated to making music in Detroit for 20 years, and this series connects you with the stories he has heard on gigs and at recording sessions.

Get a look into Stevie Wonders audition for Motown Records, sessions with funk master George Clinton, renowned hip-hop producer J Dilla’s first days with a drum machine, and many more stories about what shaped the legacy of this musical city. 

Episode 016

Dennis Coffey started his professional career as a session musician on small Detroit independent funk and soul labels. By the late 1960s, he went on to become a session musician and Funk Brother at Motown Records. He played on many sessions including hit records for The Temptations and Four Tops.

Doug Coombe
Doug Coombe

Around the same time, Dennis was working on his own records, releasing a series of instrumental records that featured the psychedelic and funky guitar sounds that he was known for. He had a huge hit with his song “Scorpio” in 1971.

In 1972, Motown left Detroit and changed its headquarters to Los Angeles. The music scene in Detroit was greatly impacted and many musicians left for work on the west coast. Dennis followed suit, but he wanted to continue his solo work and expand his career into Hollywood film scoring. His first gig was to compose the music for a film titled “Black Belt Jones,” a 1974 blaxploitation/martial-arts film directed by Robert Clouse and starring Jim Kelly. The film is a successor to Clouse’s prior film “Enter the Dragon,” in which Kelly had a supporting role. Over the years, the theme song to Black Belt Jones has become a cult classic for record collectors. It has been sampled by many hip-hop producers and is a staple in break-dancing culture because of its iconic drum break.

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  • Sam Beaubien
    Sam Beaubien is a musician, composer, producer, and educator in Detroit. He is also the founder and leader of the acclaimed ensemble, Will Sessions.