Summer always seems to bring a plethora of films about music. We’ve sorted through this pile and chosen four documentaries from four very different musical genres and philosophies to put together a short series.
We kick off the series with One Track Heart: The Story of Krishna Das. Instead of becoming the lead singer of Blue Oyster Cult in 1970, Jeff Kagel sold all his possessions and moved the the Himalayas on a spiritual journey, attempting to outrun his depression and drug dependence. One Track Heart follows his trek to India and back, taking the audience through his re-emergence as Krishna Das, a Grammy nominated chant master and world renowned spiritual teacher. The film features interviews with Rick Rubin and Sharon Salzberg among others, and has a soundtrack by Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascus and Devadas.
On July 25th we will be screening Nothing Can Hurt Me. A feature length documentary about the legendary cult band Big Star. Big Star is arguably one of the greatest rock bands ever, as well as one of the most under-appreciated. All three of their albums were included in Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest records of all time. The film serves not only as a valuable document about this critical band but also as a cautionary tale about the growing corporatization of music in the 1970’s, when independent American labels were being dismantled and marginalized by the giant music conglomerates (including STAX, Big Star’s distributor). Bands that weren’t deemed “radio ready” by the corporate king-makers were banished to obscurity, only to be rediscovered years later by members aligned with the punk rock movement that sought to demolish the corporate music structure.
Smack in the middle of disco and Motown a three-piece from Detroit started making music that was years ahead of it’s time. A Band called Death is the story of three brothers Bobby, David, and Dannis Hackney who formed an R&B band in the late 60’s but switched to rock after seeing an Alice Cooper show a few years later. This film tells an incredible story: from the brothers teaching themselves how to play guitar after finding an abandoned guitar in an alley, to getting a record deal with a very successful producer only to lose it after refusing to change their name, to the serendipitous re-discovery of their original recordings in an old attic and subsequent Drag City release of their debut record (re-mastered from the 1974 demo). Death was not only the first African-American punk band (preceding Bad Brains by five years) but one of the first punk bands period, contemporary with The Ramones, Rocket From The Tombs, and The Saints. August 6th
We will wrap up the series on August 15th with The Secret Disco Revolution. The film starts by making the argument that disco was more than it’s image of excess and simplified music, but was actually an important time of protest, liberating African-Americans, gay people, and women. However, as the film progresses, we find the narrator is unreliable, and the skeptical reenactments turn to over-the-top fiction. The form of this film matches it’s content, compelling the audience to match the skeptical tone and question (while laughing) the film’s premise.