29 Apr Music Documentaries You Should Add To Your Watch List
Music Documentaries offer interesting artist-portraits and genre breakdowns that “based on a true story” movies cannot replicate.
G’day Andy here from Melodie. As is probably obvious (and advantageous) for someone in my position, I’m a bit of a music nut. I listen to it constantly, make it occasionally, read about it voraciously and prefer to watch it more than pretty much anything else. So given my heaving DVD shelves and laden hard drives I thought I might be well placed to offer up a selection of my favourite music documentaries.
5 Music Documentaries Every Music Lover Should Watch
1. Band Called Death: A music documentary of promise, tragedy and triumph
First up, the best music documentary about the most important band you’ve never heard of. The simply named “A Band Called Death,” digs deep into the origins of this crucial combo and uncovers the truth about a punk entity that preceded the attack of the Ramones, the sneer of The Saints and the politics of The Clash by a considerable measure. And the kicker? These guys were African Americans.
2. Searching For Sugarman: A South African cultural phenomenon
Hollywood loves taking inspiration from real life but when it comes to historical musical moments, there’s nothing like seeing the real thing. The best thing about music documentaries is that it captures the most interesting parts of an artist’s story.
A documentary that features another grand quest; “Searching For Sugarman” details the rise and then almost bizarre disappearance of the artist Rodriguez. A singer/ songwriter from one continent that changed people’s lives in another and never knew it. This is a fascinating story.
3. Sound City: An homage to a machine
Music documentaries aren’t just about the artists, they explore everything about music. This one’s for the tweakers out there who love studios and gear (i.e. me!)—a studio in a semi industrial backwater of LA where music was created that had a huge impact on the whole world. Foo Fighters and Nirvana rock legend Dave Grohl takes a look at the studio that changed his life—“Sound City”—and discovers just how many seminal records were made there. Features Paul McCartney playing a biscuit tin guitar!
4. The Making of Rumors: The inside story you should know
While on the subject of Sound City; this one can’t be overlooked. A deep dive into an album that has sold over 40 million copies and continues to have influence today—EDM cover versions, huge TikTok clips and world tours. “The Making of Rumors” showcases how Fleetwood Mac reinvented itself with the add-on of Buckingham Nicks, and then in a haze of drugs and broken relationships created an album that defined an era.
5. Standing In The Shadows of Motown: Celebrating 1960’s soul hitmakers
And finally, a music documentary that gives a shout out to the people who made the stars, stars. “Standing In The Shadows of Motown” shines a light on a band that recorded more hits than the Beatles, Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones and Elvis combined—The Funk Brothers—the sound of more Motown hits than you can sing in a week of karaoke.
Other Music Documentaries You Might Like
A few notable runners-up that you should start watching too:
1. Buena Vista Social Club – Ry Cooder’s detailed love affair and rebirthing of a bygone Cuban musical era.
2. Radiohead, Meeting People Is Easy – the band hated this exposé of the touring and publicity grind that bands go through as part of their job.
3. The Little Ol’ Band From Texas – Netflix does a great job with this showcase of an amazing blues band that crossed into the mainstream and – up until Dusty’s death in 2021 – just kept on keeping on.
4. What Happened, Miss Simone? – An amazing pianist becomes an extraordinary singer and vocal social critic, all the while suffering unbearable personal issues.