Over the years, there have been some truly great and memorable music documentaries that either focus on an artist’s or band’s entire career, or are simply a snapshot showcasing a moment in time. These documentaries can be straight-forward chronicles, or, as in the case of the upcoming David Bowie documentary film, MOONAGE DAYDREAM, they can be transfixing spectacles that pay homage not just to the artist’s music but also their core selves.
In honor of Brett Morgan’s highly-anticipated arthouse film opening in AMC Theatres nationwide on Friday, September 16th, here are a trio of memorable music documentaries from years past that are available to watch on demand. From the queen of soul to the summer of soul, and to a duo of brothers who created a spark in the rock world and forever changed music, here are some titles you don’t want to miss…
On September 16, 2022, director Brett Morgan will take audiences into the career, mind, and very essence of David Bowie with the expansive and psychedelic MOONAGE DAYDREAM. Taking its title from one of the late musician’s songs, the new documentary uses previously unreleased footage from the personal archives of Bowie himself, and combines it with live concert footage, TV appearances, and other interviews given by the legendary performer.
The documentary features narration by Bowie, who will guide audiences through the kaleidoscopic and transfixing experience. To make things better and more immersive, MOONAGE DAYDREAM is also being shown in the IMAX format.
Aretha Franklin’s 1972 live album, “Amazing Grace,” has gone down as one of the most successful releases of the late soul icon’s career and the entire gospel genre. With more than two million copies sold, a Grammy® for Best Soul Gospel Performance, and a legacy as one of the greatest live recordings of all time, it should come as no surprise that Franklin, her band, and her label, Atlantic Records, knew there was something special about the concert and shot a concert film captured by the late great Sydney Pollock. What is surprising is the fact this documentary sat on the shelf for nearly 50 years before it received a proper release.
In 2018, Alan Elliott brought the footage of the legendary concert out of the shadows and into the limelight with the release of AMAZING GRACE, an 87-minute concert film that shows Franklin in all her glory accompanied by her band and the Southern California Community Choir. There are concert films and then there is AMAZING GRACE, with its incredible song selection, direction, and spirit from both Franklin and the crowd, which included the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts. And, with iconic performances of songs like “Amazing Grace,” “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” it’s easy to see why the performance has gone down as one of the most iconic of all time.
Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
The 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, which took place over the course of a single summer in Harlem’s Mount Morris Park, saw performances from some of the greatest musical artists of the time, like Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, The Staples Singers, Gladys Knight, Sly and the Family Stone, and several others, for what should have been one of the most culturally impactful musical moments of the 20th Century. However, the lion’s share of the hours of footage from the various concerts that made up the musical festival sat in storage for 50 years, unwatched and unknown to the masses.
Well, that all changed with the release of Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s SUMMER OF SOUL (…OR, WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED), a 2021 documentary that would go on to win essentially every award for which it received a nomination, including the Academy Award®, Grammy, and a couple of dozen others. Part concert film and part examination of the festival’s impact and legacy, the documentary combines restored footage of various performances with interviews from attendees to create an in-depth and enlightening experience for everyone who watches.
The Sparks Brothers
Sparks, the revolutionary and highly influential rock duo made up of real-life brothers Ron and Russell Mael, may not be a household name, but a great deal of people have heard their eclectic songs or at least heard bands inspired by their unique style over the years. Dating back to the early 1970s, Sparks has released two dozen studio albums, various soundtracks, and singles, with the most recent being the musical companion to the documentary based on their lives, career, and legacy in the music industry: THE SPARKS BROTHERS.
Directed by Edgar Wright, who knows a thing or two about finding the the best music for the best possible moment in movies like SHAUN OF THE DEAD, BABY DRIVER, and LAST NIGHT IN SOHO, this expansive 2021 documentary film serves as both an introduction to Sparks for those not yet familiar with the band as well as a love letter to the brothers, told through interviews with the likes of Beck, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Neil Gaiman, Girogio Moroder, and countless others. It doesn’t matter if someone is familiar with Sparks or not, this memorable music documentary, which is as quirky as the brothers behind the band, has something for everyone.
Each of these memorable music documentaries do an outstanding job of shedding light on their respective artists and events, and they shouldn’t be missed. Make sure to check them out before MOONAGE DAYDREAM lands in AMC Theatres nationwide on September 16, 2022.