Here we are. Back again with the next top five of my favorite Musical Documentaries or like I say Rock Docs. These are five films I enjoyed about artists we hardly got to know, with the exception of the Talking Heads. From Marvin Gaye to Kurt Cobain and everyone in between. I love it when the camera goes backstage and goes into the lives of singers who left the Earth too early, but at least we have them on tape! Check out my top five musical documentaries.
Indie Wire says: “A powerful, moving documentary on the short but electrifying life of British singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse. “An extraordinary, powerful work” Asif Kapadia director of the doc features retro footage of the culturally influential singer Amy Winehouse. This particular piece of art includes interviews with Lauren Gilbert, Mitchell Winehouse, Janis Winehouse, Raye Cosbert, Tyler James, Pete Doherty, Tony Bennett, and many more. “Confessional with punchlines” – is how the singer described her songwriting abilities. Asif Kapadia’s melancholy film explores her short, explosive life. Winehouse’s own songs narrate the story, which is more like a diary than the average documentary. The beautifully sad life of a great artist who definitely died too young and will bring you into the micro existence of maybe one of the top female crooners of all time. Well, if you missed her life, you can catch her film – Amy.
KURT AND COURTNEY
After rocker Kurt Cobain’s death was ruled a suicide, a film crew landed in Seattle to shoot a documentary. Director Nick Broomfield engages the many people who existed in Kurt’s life. Cobain’s aunt gives her own home movies and recordings. The estranged father of Cobain’s widow Courtney Love, an L.A. private investigator who worked for Love, a nanny for Kurt and Courtney’s child, friends and lovers of both. Although Love won’t talk to the filmmaker or answer his inquiries – he comes to believe the coroner’s verdict. The documentary portrays the singer as a shy, slight, man tired of touring, hates fame, and loves heroin. It also shows an out-going Courtney who comes off as dramatic, controlling, elevating from groupie to star. The short life of Kurt Cobain is put front and center with this explosively, informative documentary, diving into the life and relationship of a legendary singer who brought a grudge to the masses. How did he really die? Only Courtney knows and that might be the problem.
STOP MAKING SENSE, THE TALKING HEADS CONCERT FILM
Jonathan Demme’s work of art is widely known as one of the best concert/music documentaries of all time, winning the National Society of Film Critics award for best non-fiction film in 1984. It was shot during four nights of concerts at Hollywood’s Pantages Theatre. Stop Making Sense includes performances of the first Talking Heads single, “Psycho Killer” (1977), through to their most recent hit at the time, “Burning Down the House” (1983). It also includes songs from the solo career of frontman David Byrne and Tom Tom Club, the side project of the drummer and bassist, Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth.
The band raised $1.2 million to make the movie themselves. The four main members of Talking Heads are joined by singers Lynn Mabry and Edna Holt, the guitarist Alex Weir, the keyboardist Bernie Worrell, and the percussionist Steve Scales.
Stop Making Sense is a cult classic. It used early digital audio techniques which were innovative for the time. In 2021, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress – David Ritz
WHAT’S GOING ON?
In 1984, Marvin Gaye left behind one of the great American, musical legacies. A superb vocalist and subtle composer, Gaye was a visionary who expressed the tenor of his times. He was both radical and romantic, a self-taught singer with a flair for saying what was authentically true, he thrived on confession and loved being true to himself. His unique talent of turning the listener into a secret friend, of making one absorbed in his immediate presence. Marvin’s aura combined with his spiritual and sensual essences made him one of the most memorable singers/writers of all time. His music worked wonders but in his personal life, they clashed. Marvin Gaye translated his complex life into beautiful music. This beautiful life is put on film for all to see.
The producers of Jesus Christ Superstar, filmed “Superstars”, a feature-length documentary about the BTS of the original “Jesus Christ Superstar” theatrical movie. The 90-minute documentary features making of footage and interviews with cast members and Norman Jewison. In 1972, director Jewison took a group of young thespians, singers, and dancers to war-ravaged Israel to shoot the adaptation of the hit rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar.” The production team put together a new expanded digital cut of the original documentary “Superstars.” The original 2015, 52 min feature is being expanded to 90 min with an additional chapter of the film cast reunion in New York City and unseen footage of one of the cast members, Barry Dennen, who played “Pontius Pilate” retelling his experiences before and after filming in Israel. One of my favorite Rock Operas and a must-see! If you liked the movie, you will love the doc!