Illustration by Heidi Berton
After long stretches of COVID-19 lockdowns, the live music industry returned full throttle in 2022. So many concerts, so little time (and money). Amid the deluge, overwhelmed fans may have overlooked a wealth of music-related films, books and podcasts. Here’s what to check out, now that there is time to consume them at a more leisurely pace.
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Travelin’ Band: Creedence Clearwater Revival at the Royal Albert Hall: Creedence Clearwater Revival’s white-boy boogie was so unique that critics made up a verb to describe the sound: “choogle.” This film, narrated by actor Jeff Bridges, documents the chooglin’ band’s road to the famed London venue in 1970. (Streaming on Netflix)
Beautiful Scars: We knew Hamilton rocker Tom Wilson through his bands Junkhouse and Blackie and the Rodeo Kings. For that matter, that’s how Tom Wilson knew Tom Wilson for many years. A TVOntario documentary explores the musician/artist’s late-in-life discovery of his hidden Mohawk ancestry. (Streaming on TVO Today)
Moonage Daydream: Watching it at home, won’t be the same as seeing it on an IMAX screen, but Brett Morgen’s vibrant documentary on David Bowie is as thoughtful as it is radiant. (Available on-demand)
Elton Live: Farewell from Dodger Stadium: In 1975, Elton John performed two sold-out shows at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, famously decked out in a glittery baseball uniform for the occasion. This year the 75-year-old pop icon returned in similar garb to the stadium for the final two North American concerts of his farewell tour. Fittingly, for a ballpark show, he played the hits. (Streaming on Disney+)
Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On: Madison Thomas’s documentary on the legendary singer-songwriter fluidly weaves together interviews, press clippings and archival footage for an impressive overview of an unlikely star. (Streaming on Crave)
The Philosophy of Modern Song, by Bob Dylan: The man who needs no introduction didn’t bother with an introduction to his collection of essays on 66 songs. He just dedicates the book to Doc Pomus and thanks his fishing buddy and the crew at Dunkin’ Donuts, then launches into a chapter on Bobby Bare’s Detroit City. At turns mischievous, curmudgeonly and scholarly, Dylan amuses and informs.
The Come Up: An Oral History of the Rise of Hip-Hop, by Jonathan Abrams: An essential study of music’s dominant pop genre, The Come Up can’t stop, won’t stop.
Totally Wired: The Rise and Fall of the Music Press, by Paul Gorman: There was a time when music critics were rock stars of a kind. You get a bit of that story with Jann Wenner’s ode to Rolling Stone magazine (Like a Rolling Stone: A Memoir), but Paul Gorman’s Totally Wired goes harder and deeper.
Black Country Music Listening for Revolutions, by Francesca T. Royster: It’s billed by its publisher as the first book on Black country music by a Black writer (and a queer Black woman at that). The author covers Tina Turner, Charley Pride and Lil Nas X while discussing the ways country music can be problematic for Black people – an uneasiness the professor of English at DePaul University compares to coming out.
Maybe We’ll Make It: A Memoir, by Margo Price: Heartbreaking and defiant country songs don’t all come out of thin air. The gifted singer-songwriter Margo Price documents her long road to Nashville in what she describes as a “love story about loyalty, loss, grief and forgiveness.”
Ain′t But a Few of Us: Black Music Writers Tell Their Story, edited by Willard Jenkins: Did you know that no major mainstream jazz publication has ever had a Black editor or publisher? Black jazz critics and journalists discuss their lack of standing in an industry dominated by white men. Also included are classic pieces by writers and musicians such as LeRoi Jones, Archie Shepp, A.B. Spellman and Herbie Nichols.
Bedroom Rapper: Cadence Weapon on Hip-Hop, Resistance and Surviving the Music Industry: Polaris Prize-winning rapper, journalist and former Edmonton poet laureate Rollie Pemberton (a.k.a. Cadence Weapon) is one of the important, vocal advocates for musicians in this country. His book covers hip-hop history and his own story with passion, notions and eloquence.
Tenacious D: The Road to Redunktion: This Audible Original project gathers words and songs from Tenacious D, the audacious duo of actor Jack Black and Kyle Gass who present their heavy metal music with pro-wrestling bombast, face-melting riffs and devil-horn sincerity. The Road to Redunktion is their story self-told with a sense of wonder and gratefulness.
A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs: Proving the adage that “it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing,” this podcast on the evolution of rock music kicked off in 2018 with Flying Home by the Benny Goodman Sextet. Fast forward to 2022 and we’re up to Episode 159: Itchycoo Park by the Small Faces. Meticulously researched, the deep-diving pod is thorough enough for musicologists and accessible enough for casual music fans.
Follow Brad Wheeler on Twitter: @BWheelerglobeOpens in a new window
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