5 Must-See Music Documentaries By: Hanna Christian
When it comes to music documentaries, it’s rare to find one that I don’t enjoy. However, when I come across one that really blows me away, I spend a solid six months recommending it to everyone I meet. As a former filmmaker, and lifelong music buff, it’s no surprise that I spend the majority of my free time watching an abundance of films in this genre. For those of you, who actually have a life, allow me to narrow it down to the five of them that you must see. You’re welcome.
1. “MUSCLE SHOALS” (2013)-
This award winner is one of the best documentaries that I have ever seen in my life. It chronicles the fascinating tale of Rick Hall, founder of FAME Studios, which produced some of the most iconic music of all time. Despite the overwhelming amount of tragedy that was thrown at Hall, he managed to unite black and white musicians, to create records that would last a lifetime. Rick Hall and his outstanding studio band, “The Swampers,” were joined by legendary artists such as: Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Greg Allman, Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, Mick Jagger, Bono, Jimmy Cliff, and many, many more, giving birth to the unique, soulful “Muscle Shoals sound.” This unbelievable film invites you to discover the magic and mystery, that is, Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
2. “IT MIGHT GET LOUD” (2008)-
My mother first introduced me to Led Zeppelin, when I was only four years old, and they immediately became my favorite band. I am also completely obsessed with the genius, that is, Jack White. So, as soon as I heard about a documentary that allows you to be a fly on the wall to Jimmy Page, Jack White, and The Edge, talking guitar, I called in sick to work and rented the film on iTunes. Playing hooky, to watch that documentary, was a decision well made. Each artist discusses their personal history and relationship with the guitar, both privately in their home, and together as group. The documentary opens with Jack White casually building an electric guitar from scratch, using a piece of wood, a nail, a glass bottle, and some wire, in a matter of minutes. If the intro isn’t fascinating enough, that is only the beginning, as you join these iconic musicians in a story of passion, fate, and love.
3. “MARLEY” (2012)-
No one in the reggae world will ever come close to touching Bob Marley. He is the king. And that title and reputation was not just handed to him. Coming from a very interesting background, Bob never cared about the fame or money that he eventually earned, and it was that kind of humility and heart that has kept him on top. Although we all turn to Bob’s music for its lightness and relaxation, his music ironically stemmed from a great deal of pain and suffering. This perfectly made documentary tells the story that was hidden under the dreadlocks and smile, and it is guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes and a smile to your heart.
4. “THE LAST WALTZ” (1978)-
When The Band decided that things had run its course, they went out with a bang. Or shall I say, band. When I inevitably die, I can only hope that my loved ones unite in a celebration of life, as opposed to a mourning of death. And that is exactly what these guys did. The music, the collaborations, the special guests, and the love, are absolutely phenomenal. Not to mention, Martin Scorsese directed the documentary. You can’t watch this film just once, and it will always remain timeless, which gives its title such irony and beauty. This concert film will truly set your soul on fire.
5. “WOODSTOCK: 3 DAYS OF PEACE & MUSIC” (1970)-
Those of us, who were not in attendance at the legendary Woodstock music festival in 1969, wish we were. We’ve all heard about Woodstock, but it’s a completely different perspective, when you get to watch actual footage, and hear the details live from an abundance of guests and artists. This documentary does not hold back, as it gives you a true sense of the magic that took place that weekend in Bethel, New York. Woodstock could unfortunately never happen in modern day, but thanks to Max Yasger and everyone else involved in the festival, it was captured on film for all of us to enjoy.