Category Archives: Documentary

Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives

The 59th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony will be held on February 12, 2017. The CBS network will broadcast the show live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

The most prestigious party associated with the event is the Clive Davis Pre-Grammy Gala. The festivities take place tonight, Saturday, February, 11 at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

This year’s guests will include Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, Ringo Starr, Metallica, Pharrell Williams, John Legend, Michael Keaton, Jane Fonda, Nile Rogers, Mary J. Blige, Britney Spears, Neil Young, Brian Grazer, Larry King, Andrea Day and Wiz Khalifa.

Clive Davis’s influence has been felt for 50 years in the music industry. He will be honored with a documentary, Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives which opens the 16th Annual Tribeca Film Festival, at Radio City Music Hall on April 19, 2017. After the screening, an all-star music concert will take place featuring performances by Aretha Franklin, Jennifer Hudson and Earth, Wind & Fire. (to name a few)

The documentary is based on Clive Davis’s 2013 bestselling autobiography:

I admire Clive Davis who was President of Columbia-CBS Group in the heyday (1967-1973) at Big Black Rock on 52nd Street in New York City. This was a significant period that expanded my rock music appreciation.

An early pop signing of his was the British folk-rock musician Donovan, who enjoyed a string of successful hit singles and albums released in the U.S. on the Epic Records label.

Clive Davis went on to further success by founding Arista Records in 1975 by signing Patti Smith, Barry Manilow, and after Whitney Houston.

He’s 84 and still a pivotal force in the recording industry as Chief Creative Officer of Sony Music Entertainment.

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Mavis!

Mavis! is the first feature documentary on gospel/soul music legend and civil rights icon Mavis Staples and her family group, The Staple Singers. From the freedom songs of the ’60s and hits like “I’ll Take You There” in the ’70s, to funked-up collaborations with Prince and her recent albums with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Mavis has stayed true to her roots, kept her family close, and inspired millions along the way.

Featuring powerful live performances, rare archival footage, and conversations with friends and contemporaries including Bob Dylan, Prince, Bonnie Raitt, Levon Helm, Jeff Tweedy, Chuck D, and more, Mavis! reveals the struggles, successes, and intimate stories of her journey. At 75, she’s making the most vital music of her career, winning Grammy awards, and reaching a new generation of fans. Her message of love and equality is needed now more than ever.

FEATURING

The Staple Singers
Jeff Tweedy
Chuck D
Julian Bond
Bonnie Raitt
Bob Dylan
Levon Helm
Marty Stuart
Al Bell
Prince
Steve Cropper
Sharon Jones

DOC NYC – Music Documentaries

 

I wish I had gotten it together to attend this event in the city. Chuffed to discover that there will be several music documentary films shown. Two of which I have covered on this blog, Bang! The Bert Berns Story and Soundbreaking.

A third music documentary is the The Terry Kath Experience. Terry Kath, one of the tragedy’s of rock whose guitar blazed the trail with Chicago Transit Authority in 1968. The Whole World Is Watching still rings true in the music of our heart with the #NOTMYPRESIDENT protests.

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The Terry Kath Experience is a trip into the mind of one of the most underrated guitarists in rock history. Kath was one of the original members of the band Chicago whose guitar playing and voice has been praised by such icons as Jimi Hendrix and Joe Walsh. The film follows first-time filmmaker Michelle Sinclair, Terry’s daughter, as she searches for the truth surrounding the life and untimely death of her father.

 

Soundbreaking: Stories From The Cutting Edge of Recorded Music

I find it interesting when we are allowed a further look inside the recording process. I can’t wait to see what is in store with these wide ranging eight PBS episodes.

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Sir George Martin had a last project: a documentary series on the impact of recorded music. Unfortunately, the legendary Beatles producer died before the final work was completed, but his spirit imbues every frame of Soundbreaking: Stories From The Cutting Edge of Recorded Music, an 8-part series that airs on PBS beginning  Nov. 14.

Each hour-long episode tackles a different topic, including recording vocals, the electrification of instruments, the artistry of sampling and the rise of the music video.

The Blues Society – Augusta Palmer

The Memphis Country Blues Festival (as it came to be known in succeeding years) had a shoestring start, organized by the Memphis Country Blues Society, an ad hoc group consisting of counterculture figures, musicians, and fans, including Robert Palmer, who would go on to write the seminal book Deep Blues and become the first pop music critic for the New York Times. His daughter, Augusta Palmer, a filmmaker and professor at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, New York, is seeking to tell the story of the festival in a documentary called The Blues Society.

You can contribute to the crowdsourcing campaign here.

Country Blues Festival: 50th Anniversary

From 1966-1969, the Memphis Country Blues Festival was held at The Overton Park Band Shell (now the Levitt Shell). This racially integrated festival was significant in its use of blues, rock and soul music in a time of segregation in Memphis. In 1969, the footage of the festival was broadcast nationally on Sounds of Summer, hosted by Steve Allen.  This hour-long footage features performances by The Bar Kays, Johnny Winter, Bukka White, Rufus Thomas, Furry Lewis, Moloch, Jim Dickinson, Sid Selvidge and many more.

On Thursday September 8th at 7 p.m. the film, The Blues Society will be shown at the Levitt Shell to celebrate the 50th anniversary.  A panel discussion will follow the film with Robert Gordon, Augusta Palmer, and others.

Chasing Trane

“Chasing Trane” reveals the critical events, passions, experiences, and challenges that shaped the life of John Coltrane and his revolutionary sounds. It is a story of demons and darkness, of persistence and redemption. Above all else, it is the incredible spiritual journey of a man who found himself and, in the process, created an extraordinary body of work that transcends all barriers of geography, race, religion and age.

The film narrated by Academy-Award winner Denzel Washington makes its début at the Toronto International Film Festival on Friday, September 9th.

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John Scheinfeld, whose directing credits include 2006’s The U.S. vs. John Lennon and 2010’s Who Is Harry Nilsson (and Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?, wrote and directed Chasing Trane. No theatrical release date is set yet.

David Lynch – The Art Life

His genius is compelling. David Lynch, The Art Life a documentary about the acclaimed director’s childhood up through his early films, is making its debut this weekend at the Venice Film Festival.

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The Legacy of Bert Berns

The purpose of this blog post is to promote awareness of the inherent genius of the late Bert Berns. He was born in New York in 1929 and died tragically of a heart attack at just 38 years of age. But in his short career, Berns left an indelible mark on popular music; he made fifty-one pop chart singles in seven years and became one of the most successful songwriters of the 1960s.

Recordings  – There is an interesting catalog of Bert Berns that spans three volumes from Ace Records, UK.

Book

A gem of a book you will want to sink your teeth into is, Here Comes The Night: The Dark Soul Of Bert Berns and the Dirty Business Of Rhythm and Blues researched (16 years) and written by authoritative music journalist Joel Selvin.

Here Comes the Night is both a definitive account of the golden age of rhythm and blues of the early ’60s and the harrowing, ultimately tragic story of songwriter and record producer Bert Berns, whose meteoric career was fueled by his pending doom. His heart damaged by rheumatic fever as a youth, Berns was not expected to live to see 21. Although his name is little remembered today, Berns worked alongside all the greats of the era—Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler, Burt Bacharach, Phil Spector, Gerry Goffin and Carole King, anyone who was anyone in New York rhythm and blues. In seven quick years, he went from nobody to the top of the pops—producer of monumental r&b classics, songwriter of “Twist and Shout,” “My Girl Sloopy,” “Piece of My Heart,” and others.

This book serves as a major source for the documentary about Bert Berns mentioned  below. Joel Selvin wrote the narration for the film.

Documentary

I have a great deal of respect and admiration for Bob Sarles. He has captured on film many moving testaments about the important music industry giants of our time. He has an incredible knack for highlighting people who deserve our focus and attention. I’m grateful for his work.

Bang! The Bert Berns Story – Music meets the Mob in this biographical documentary, narrated by Steven Van Zandt, about the life and career of Bert Berns, the most important songwriter and record producer from the sixties that you never heard of. His hits include “Twist and Shout”, “Hang On Sloopy”, “Here Comes The Night” and “Piece Of My Heart.” He helped launch the careers of Van Morrison and Neil Diamond and produced some of the greatest soul music ever made. Filmmaker Brett Berns brings his late father’s story to the screen through interviews with those who knew him best and rare performance footage. Included in the film are interviews with Ronald Isley, Ben E. King, Solomon Burke, Van Morrison, Keith Richards and Paul McCartney.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Award

Bert Berns was inducted as a non-performer and given the Ahmet Ertegun Lifetime Achievement Award with the 2016 class to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Broadway Musical 2016-2017

The Piece of My Heart, The Bert Berns Story, is slated to open as a Broadway Musical.  Steven Van Zandt and Paul Shaffer, along with Maureen Van Zandt and Joe Grano (Jersey Boys), will serve as lead producers. It was also announced that Mr. Van Zandt will serve as the show’s musical director.

Piece of My Heart tells Bert’s triumphant and tragic story through the eyes of Jessie, the daughter he never knew. Experience what Rolling Stone calls “one of the great untold stories of rock and roll.” This world premiere musical pulls you into a journey of discovery told through his chart-topping hits (and some rare gems) including “Twist and Shout,” “I Want Candy,” “Hang on Sloopy,” and the immortal title song, “Piece of My Heart.” Meet the man you never knew through the music you’ve loved for years.

Ticket To Write Update

The documentary, Ticket TWrite:The Golden Age of Rock Music Journalism is finally being released. It will run on Alabama Public TV in April/May. Digital downloads and possibly DVDs should be available by summer.

This documentary film explores the Golden Age of rock music journalism, from Crawdaddy magazine to MTV (1966-81). A time I remember fondly as a voracious reader and music collector.

Here is the latest extended trailer.