Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Whiny Musicians / Good Documentary

I recently had a chance to check out the 2005 documentary Before the Music Dies courtesy of hulu.com it's a pretty decent film.

The general topic is the sad state of "big music" (circa 2005).  Although the film is a few years old, the general description of the prevailing trends in the industry remains accurate.

Some things that made me chuckle
  • Good musicians' tendency to think they're particularly insightful and/or profound as commentators:  Lots of big names in this one commenting on things... Eric Clapton, Dave Matthews, Eryka Badu, Questlove, Branford Marsalis, Bonnie Rait, etc.  Let's just say that not everyone was equally deserving of camera time (although Badu was pretty funny)
  • How the more things change, the more they stay the same:  I found it humorous how all these "serious artists" bemoaned the manufactured pop stars of the present day... how it's all about image and not about the music!  This of course ignores the fact the pop stars have been "manufactured" since the dawn of recorded music.  It's probably the same way our great grandparents talked about Fats Domino and our grandparents talked about Elvis... I know it's the way my parents talked about Run DMC!
There was interesting commentary from former major label record executives and the film also spent some time profiling Doyle Bramhall II... a Blues Rock artist who was a great example of a major label "failure" who's achieved critical acclaim and a solid career.

The highest points in the film are when the artists talk about what motivates them to do what they do, including particularly transcendent scene where an older blues man talks about his love for playin' the blues.  I'd definitely recommend it for artists and students of the industry (which I think most "serious artists" should be!).

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