Music Documentaries to Binge Watch!

Besides being a music nerd, I’m also a huge fan of documentaries (yes, I’m one of those people). While some people may say this kind of activity is lazy, I think of it as decompressing from the rest of the world. Music is important and it’s also nostalgic so why not celebrate it during the holidays with your family? Since music does bring people together. 

Echo In The Canyon (2019)

First up is a look at the roots of the historic music scene in L.A.’s Laurel Canyon. It features the music of The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, and The Mamas and the Papas. “Echo In The Canyon” also celebrates the explosion of popular music that came out of Laurel Canyon in the mid-60s as folk went electric.

These aforementioned groups gave birth to the California Sound. It was a moment (1965 to 1967) when bands came to LA to emulate The Beatles. Obvious, this didn’t happen but, Laurel Canyon emerged as a hotbed of creativity and collaboration for a new generation of musicians.

It was these artists that would put an indelible stamp on the history of American popular music. The film explores the Laurel Canyon scene via never-before-heard personal details behind the bands and their songs and how that music continues to inspire today. 

MARTIN SCORSESE PRESENTS THE BLUES (2003)

It’s seven films, by seven directors, each different from one another. Some focus more on fictional storytelling, some on interviews, and some on chasing down Blues history, so you can pick based on your mood. Originally coming out on PBS as a special presentation, it’s available as a DVD box set and CD set as well. Furthermore, it offers up many insights into the blues from its beginnings to present day. 

Searching For Sugar Man (2012)

Searching for Sugar Man tells the incredible true story of Rodriguez, the greatest ’70s rock icon who never was. After being discovered in a Detroit bar, Rodriguez’s sound struck 2 renowned producers, and they signed a recording deal. But when the album bombed, the singer disappeared into obscurity.

A bootleg recording found its way into apartheid South Africa and over the next two decades, he became a phenomenon. The film follows the story of two South African fans who set out to find out what really happened to their hero.

I have to say, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this movie. Surprisingly enough, it’s one of the most emotionally investing documentaries I have seen. It hits on everything – humor, compassion, humility, frustration, anger, happiness, and redemption. 

Standing in the Shadows of Motown (2002)

Detroit, Michigan 1959. Berry Gordy, gathered the best musicians from the city’s thriving jazz and blues scene for his new record company: Motown. They called themselves the Funk Brothers, and they were the greatest hit machine in the history of popular music.

This is their story. Forty-one years after they played their first note on a Motown Record and three decades since they were all together, the Funk Brothers reunite in Detroit to play their music and to tell their stories. Even though it’s from 2002, it’s fun to go back and listen to the music that most of us grew up with. Below is a performance from it…

Leon Russell – “A Poem is a Naked Person”

This documentary captures the musical genius of singer named Leon Russell. It’s a behind the scenes look at musical magic that Leon was all about. Featuring vintage footage of concert performances, that takes place during the early 70s.

While mostly financed by Russell and his then business partner Denny Cordell, it doesn’t see the light of day until 2015. Mainly due to creative differences and music clearance issues with Les Blank. For what it’s worth, it’s a masterpiece of film footage that will live on in music history. Check out the trailer below:

‘Sidemen: Long Road to Glory’

The music and legacies of Muddy Waters’ sidemen Pinetop Perkins, Willie Smith and Hubert Sumlin. Surviving members of Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters bands came together in 2008. Furthermore, they are brought together by Director Scott Rosenbaum for a cameo appearance in a feature film he is doing called “The Perfect Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll”. Pinetop Perkins, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith and Hubert Sumlin were cast for their authenticity and ability to underscore the film’s critical subplot, the evolution of rock ‘n’ roll through the blues.

During breaks from filming with these iconic Blues performers, came the documentary “Sidemen: Long Road To Glory. Their firsthand accounts of experiences with the mythical Robert Johnson, the larger-than-life Howlin’ Wolf, the seminal Muddy Waters and disciples such as Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones got the director’s creative wheels spinning. It’s a phenomenal documentary to check out with amazing guests. https://www.sidemenfilm.com/about 

Gimme Shelter (1970) – Rolling Stones, ”I’ll Be Me”Glenn Campbell,The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash, Elvis:That’s The Way It Is (1970) – Elvis’68 Comeback Tour, Aretha FranklinAmazing Grace (1972), David BowieCracked Actor (1974), Be Here To Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt (2004), No Direction Home (2005) – Bob Dylan and American Hardcore: The History Of American Punk Rock 1980-86 (2006). 

These are just a few to consider but as we get closer to the holidays and the year end, We’ll be sure to post a full list that we’ve comprised.

Be sure to check out the other blog posts we have on https://jbonamassa.com/category/blog/

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