The Top 10 Music Documentaries Streaming On Netflix
  • MONDAY, JULY 14, 2014

  • Posted by: Jason Wien

During the next couple of months, most of us will use the remainder of the season as an inspiration for activity. We'll stay out later than we should, dance our faces off at some random bar downtown, and have no real plan of waking up earlier than 2PM. We'll spend the late afternoon at the beach, walk the corroded boardwalks of New Jersey and eat out at all of our favorite restaurants. Then it's rinse, lather, repeat until the summer ends.

Others, however, are not as fond of the sun. They'll fill their days with indoor concerts and movie marathons. They'll watch all of their favorite weekend cartoons and catch up on all the books they promised themselves they'd read months ago. Well, for all you sun-aphobes out there we created a small list for you to run through (most likely in a day or two); a list that quite perfectly sums up our obsession for music, film and Netflix working in unison to form a single time-wasting entity. So without further ado, here are the top 10 music documentaries currently streaming on Netflix:


10. I'll Sing For You (2001)

Taking place in the early 60s, when West Africa's Mali was under French rule, musician Boubacar Traor slowly became a musical force begging to be reckoned with. Between his hypnotic acoustic guitar playing and the shared influences of the rock-pop being played in Europe and the U.S, Traore — better known as "Kar Kar" — became the sole voice of love, freedom, and peace in Mali during its most difficult times. However, when Traore was unable to secure a record deal, he was unable to support himself. And between the devastating loss of his wife and his exile to Paris, it would seem that Kar would be another faded musician who gracefully bowed out of the spotlight. But because great music will always shine through the fog, Kar was given the chance to revisit his faded fame that he had left behind by a musical producer who begged him to reconsider recording a new album. I'll Sing For You is a breathtaking story about the return of Traore to Mali and his quest to reclaim the throne he once owned.



9. Fela: Music Is The Weapon (1982)

Skimming the surface on the frayed politics in Nigeria Fela: Music Is The Weapon narrates the creator of afro-beat, Fela Kuti's extensive and uplifting career despite battling the country's political turbulence at the time. What makes Fela: Music Is The Weapon particularly amazing is Kuti's undeniable optimism through times of lengthy distress and his influence on music for years to come. This is an essential for every Fela Kuti fan!



8. Libertines: There Are No Innocent Bystanders (2011)

The rockumentary, Libertines: There Are No Innocent Bystanders, chronicles the largely influential life and times of British-rock band The Libertines, which led them to abysmal acclaim and then to sudden end. What is most intriguing about the film is that it brings forth a truth that is clearly evident in bands that have broken up: Relationships don't end after the band breaks up; you have to work on resolving your issues or else you'll always be left with a stale impression of what once was. The Libertines: There Are No Innocent Bystanders manages to portray this beautifully with captivating narration and archival footage of the band at their most awesomely humorous moments.



7. How To Grow A Band (2011)

When the mandolin king, Chris Thile realized his life was at a slight standstill, he came up with the best idea ever: make a record that's so musically intricate that only a select handful of musicians can play it, then record the album and go on tour with said musicians across the nation to form one of the hardest working and most promising young bands in the world, Punch Brothers. What is particularly interesting in How To Grow A Band is not the fact that the band had hardly met and yet all seemed to have the same ideas when it came to the music (although, that is pretty awesome), however, it's the exposed tension that arises and how the young up-and-coming act deals with the stress that all musicians must inevitably endure.



6. Ain't In It For My Health: A Film About Levon Helm (2010)

The documentary, Levon Helm: Ain't It For My Health, is about the beloved member of The Band, Levon Helm's final years before death in which he rose out of his financial troubles, battled throat cancer, became a grandfather, and instilled his name in music history forever. While the film lacks in some archival footage of The Band's earlier years, the film remains an inspiration for anyone and everyone who has fallen under the immensely hypnotic spell of Levon Helm.



5. Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me (2012)

From unparalleled success to untimely deaths, directors Drew DeNicola and Olivia Mori's Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me exposes archival footage of a band whose music you may have never heard, but will make you realize shortly after that it's exactly what your life's been missing this whole time.



4. Greenwich Village: Music That Defined A Generation (2013)

Greenwich Village: Music The Defined A Generation not only explores the enormous musical vacuum of the west side of downtown Manhattan in the 60s and 70s, but it also sheds light on a time when folk-music grew in popularity until it became the voice that helped establish the revolutionary ideals that ultimately sparked everlasting political, social, and cultural change throughout the world. However, what makes the film particularly pleasing is that it's narrated by some of the Village's most beloved folk artists such as Pete Seeger, Carly Simon, Tom Paxton, and Steve Earle.



3. Charles Bradley: Soul Of America (2012)

Charles Bradley has one of the largest hearts in music. His smile is as contagious as Louie Armstrong's and his music soars with more optimism than thought possible from a man whom, at age 14, was calling the subway his home. As the film narrates his well-deserved rise to fame at the ripe age 62, the truly extraordinary elements are Bradley's ability to channel the spirit of James Brown into his music and his unwavering optimism through his most troubling times.



2. Roky Erickson: You're Gonna Miss Me (2005)

Proving that pioneering a new genre of music is no easy feat, the documentary entitled You're Gonna Miss Me is a powerful and uplifting story about the sweet-voiced psychedelic rocker Roky Erikson's rise to superstardom, and his slow decline into drugs and alleged schizophrenia. While many documentaries end by taking the sympathetic route to express the tragic truth of a faded musician, what makes You're Gonna Miss Me so remarkable is that it becomes a triumphant amalgamation about reviving a dead legacy; it's a musical redemption like you've never seen before.



1. Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him?) (2006)

Twenty years after his death, singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson still remains one of the most enigmatic souls in music history. Known for his wildly idiosyncratic tendencies, the documentary chronicles the life and times of Harry Nilsson and his immeasurable influence on music. Featuring original interviews from notable artists and acquaintances like Yoko Ono, Brian Wilson, Randy Newman and Robin Williams, the documentary follows Nilsson's life as a growing musician, his rise to superstardom, his proclamation by The Beatles as "the greatest American singer-songwriter," and his tragic points of self-destruction that ultimately ended his career.



While this list might be over, you can bet we'll be updating it as the summer unravels into fall, so stay tuned!

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