Sometimes the best kick of inspiration is hearing someone else’s story. We’ve rounded up four recent music documentaries that shed light on the creative process and can be viewed from your couch (to extend a recent theme here on the blog).
Sound City is a new documentary by rock luminary Dave Grohl that chronicles the rise and fall of the legendary Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, CA. The studio was responsible for recording numerous hit records from artists such as Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, Kyuss, Slipknot and Nirvana (who recorded Nevermind at Sound City.) While the film features appearances from artists such as Trent Reznor and Mick Fleetwood, the real star of this film is Sound City’s legendary Neve 8028 mixing console, which (spoiler alert) Grohl eventually buys and uses to host a 24-hour recording session reunion of artists in his own Studio 606.
Searching for Sugar Man
Warning: If you don’t like spoilers, don’t watch the above trailer for Searching for Sugar Man. Just jump directly into this beautiful Academy Award-winning mystery that weaves tales of revolution with the humble attitudes of a man who unknowingly touched millions in South Africa with his music. The story begins in the late 90s as two South African journalists set out to find a musician named Rodriguez, a 70s folk singer who had recorded a few records that went nowhere in the United States, but whose album had gone on to become an anthem for the resistance movement against apartheid in South Africa. The film follows these musical detectives through urban myths of South Africa and across the Atlantic to discover the truth about Rodriguez, a man who ends up being just as interesting as they could have hoped. By the end the film becomes a tale of redemption, uncovering some candid moments about the record industry and American business along the way. If you’ve seen the film already, also check out this follow-up with filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul that aired on 60 Minutes.
Marley is an epic documentary on the life of music legend Bob Marley created by director Kevin Macdonald (One Day In September, The Last King of Scotland) and released to critical acclaim last year. Using archival footage of Marley along with more recent interviews, Macdonald gets deep into the artist’s life with some great concert scenes and fascinating insights into his life and artistic development.
Although Bruno Natal’s Dub Echoes was released in 2008, we realized that we have never featured the documentary in our film roundups and we want to make sure to recommend this as essential viewing for a trip through the genre and mindset of dub music. Although the film can be somewhat meandering at times (much like the music it portrays), the intimate conversations with artists such as Lee Perry, Sly and Robbie, Mad Professor, Thievery Corporation, Basement Jaxx, Bunny Lee, King Tubby, Beat Junkies, Kode9, Roots Manuva and may others make the journey well worth taking.