I recently went through a good run of music-related documentaries that I would highly recommend:
Bayou Maharaja – This doc is about James Booker, a New Orleans pianist and entertainer that was active primarily in the 70’s. Although he made several European tours and played with many of the era’s great musicians, Booker stayed in NOLA for the most part, which is part of why he is still unknown to many people. I first heard about him when I visited New Orleans with Polyrhythmics the first time in 2014, and it’s a shame not only that I had not become familiar with him sooner, but also that he is still so underappreciated. Completely unique, extremely talented, and fascinating in every way. Check out the movie!
Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton – Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton tells the story of Stones Throw Records, the LA label started by DJ Peanut Butter Wolf and responsible for supporting music by Madlib, MF Doom, J Dilla, and others. In addition to those artists, I have Stones Throw to thank for turning me on to a few other artists that became important to me for one reason or another, like the Stepkids, Mayer Hawthorne, and James Pants. What interested me the most when watching this movie was how organic the process was in creating the musical scene around the record label; Wolf would actively pursue the music that he thought was cool, regardless of how the bands and musicians related to each other. In this way, there are some Stones Throw albums that, when put next to each other, would seem like they don’t belong on the same record label, and yet at the same time there is something in the sounds of all their records that makes it sound like Stones Throw. Wolf created a sound and a scene by not worrying about style or genre or whether it made sense.
Muscle Shoals – Similarly, I enjoyed how Muscle Shoals recounted the creation of the style and sound that would come to represent early music by Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and Duane Allman. The Muscle Shoals Sound would become famous, and its origin is nothing more than 4 studio musicians and a recording engineer from a small part of Northwestern Alabama making music that sounded good to them. The story of Muscle Shoals, from humble beginnings to more modern music industry struggles and everything in between, was truly inspiring to me.
I hope you’re encouraged to watch these films after reading this. You won’t regret it!