With the COVID-19 pandemic announced on March 2020, the last 30 days our world has been turned upside down. Staying in has become the new normal. With all this time on your hands, you may not know what to do with yourself. Watching movies can be a great distraction though you may find yourself feeling like you have gone through everything on your DVR and video streaming services. In your search, you may have missed the Netflix music documentaries.
I love documentaries. Especially music documentaries. It is fascinating for me to get a glimpse into the making of bands, albums, and concerts.
Here are ESBMusic’s picks for the best music documentaries on Netflix right now. Some of these we have seen while others have been on our list to watch. Now we finally have the time to sit down and check them out.
Clive Davis the Soundtrack Of our Lives
Known for launching the careers of Bruce Springsteen, Alicia Keys, Billy Joel, The Notorious B.I.G., Whitney Houston, and Carlos Santana there is no doubt you have heard Clive Davis’ music. This documentary gives the background of the man known for his famous Grammy party. Clive Davis the Soundrack Of Our Lives documents the many roles Davis has played in the industry and how he became the man with the golden touch.
The Harvard graduate moved from music lawyer to producer, A&R executive and president of Columbia Records. He won five Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.
This documentary gives you a look into the music mogul’s 50-year career as one of the world’s most influential record moguls.
Watching this I was floored with how many careers he launched. It’s a celebrity-packed special that is really entertaining.
Quincy is a documentary about the life of American record producer, singer, and film producer Quincy Jones. The film was co-written and co-directed by Alan Hicks and Rashida Jones who you may know as Ann Perkins from NBC’s Parks & Rec and also Quincy’s daughter.
This Grammy-award winning documentary will put you in awe of this legendary musician. He was responsible for some of the greatest music of our time. He is a music industry giant with 27 Grammy wins under his belt. Along with discovering Oprah Winfrey, he is responsible for producing some of the best-known artists of our time including Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra, Arethra Franklin and more.
Miss Americana is a documentary that chronicles the career of American singer-songwriter, Taylor Swift. Netflix described the film as a “raw and emotionally revealing look” at Swift “during a transformational period in her life as she learns to embrace her role not only as a songwriter and performer but as a woman harnessing the full power of her voice.
This documentary gives you a glimpse into the world of Swift and how she dealt with all the public backlash of her actions during her career over the past few years. It shows her growth and strength to take a stance on topics that were important to her despite resistance from her label. Even if you’re not a fan of Swift you can get something out of this documentary.
The Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese
The Rolling Thunder Revue is an American pseudo-documentary film covering Bob Dylan’s 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue concert tour. Directed by Martin Scorsese, the documentary combines unseen footage from Dylan’s 1978 film Renaldo and Clara tour along with interviews from Dylan, Joan Baez, Sam Shepard, Ronee Blakley, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Roger McGuinn, Ronnie Hawkins, Larry Sloman, and Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. Archival interviews of Scarlet Rivera and Allen Ginsberg are also featured. The director included a fictional element in the documentary adding scenes with fictional characters such filmmaker Stefan Van Dorp. Sharon Stone playing a fictionalized version of herself, and Michael Murphy reprising his role as Jack Tanner from the 1988 miniseries Tanner ’88. With Dylan referring to fictional characters in his interviews Rolling Thunder Revue leaves the viewer unable to distinguish fact from fiction in this documentary meets cinematic experience.
Hip-Hop Evolution was a Canadian series that aired on HBO in 2016. I was flipping through things to watch and came across the trailer and was totally hooked. I’ve always been intrigued by the history of rap after watching the documentary Rubble Kings.
Hip Hop Evolution is a television series that chronicles the history of rap and hip hop all the way back to its inception. The first hip-hop party at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx where DJ Kool Herc, DJed his sister’s birthday party and became the godfather hip-hop.
It features in-depth, personal interviews with the pioneers of DJing, rapping, and production, culminating in what is considered today’s rap and hip hop. Interviews include legends DJ Kool Herc, Coke La Rock, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Fab Five Freddy, Marley Marl, Afrika Bambaataa, Kool Moe Dee, Kurtis Blow, Doug E. Fresh, Whodini, Warp 9, DJ Hollywood, Spoonie Gee, The Sugarhill Gang, and Russell Simmons.
Later seasons of the series featured early influential artists who paved the way for the genre including Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, N.W.A, Ice-T, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, and LL Cool J. Schooly D, from Philadelphia, was also noted for his influence on gangsta rap on the West Coast. It then goes on to talk about how the genre turned from an underground movement within music to a mainstream genre, that ripples its influence throughout contemporary culture.
Echo in the Canyon
Echo In the Canyon is an affectionate look back into the mid-1960s when Hollywood’s Laurel Canyon was a creative nexus for young, innovative musicians. Jakob Dylan interviews the legendary rock and folk icons of the day. The documentary also features live performances of thes famous music from artists including Cat Power, Fiona Apple, and Beck. This documentary will take you back in time and warm your heart with all the inspirational music of the decade.
20 Feet From Stardom
20 Feet From Stardom is a documentary about the world of backup singing. It stars Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, and Lisa Fischer. These prominant singers tell their story of of how their vocals shaped the world of pop music. Chronicaling the impact back up vocalists have had since the early 60’s this shows an indepth look into the lives of these important woman (and men) who play a huge role in the music business.
It was a poignant and moving look into the lives of these women. I was floored to learn how there were only a handful of singers responsible for so many songs.
Woodstock: Three Days that Defined a Generation
Woodstock: Three Days that Defined a Generation is a documentary commemorating the 50th anniversary of the legendary festival. Organizers and attendees reminisce about one of the defining moments of the 1960s. In August 1969, nearly half a million people gathered at a farm in upstate New York to hear music.
What happened over the next three days, however, was far more than a concert. It would become a legendary event, one that would define a generation and mark the end of one of the most turbulent decades in modern history. Occurring just weeks after an American set foot on the moon, the Woodstock music festival took place against a backdrop of a nation in conflict over sexual politics, civil rights and the Vietnam War. A sense of an America in transition—a handoff of the country between generations with far different values and ideals—was tangibly present at what promoters billed as “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace and Music. Includes live footage of Jimi Hendrix, Joe Cocker, Sly and the Family Stone, The Who, Santana and more.
ZZ Top: That Little Ol’ Band From Texas
ZZ Top: That Little Ol’ Band From Texas is the story of three blue musicians Billy Gibbons (guitars), Dusty Hill (bass), and Frank Beard (drums) and their rise to stardom. It features candid interviews, never-before-seen archive footage and celebrity fan testimonials provide insight into the history of ZZ Top — the Southern rock ‘n’ roll-blues band.
Keith Richards: Under the Influence
In addition to being an accomplished musician, The Rolling Stones guitarist is also a solo songwriter and performer. Keith Richards: Under the Influence is a look into Richard’s life as he records his first solo album in two decades. The documentary shows the influence of blues, country, and reggae have deeply influenced the Richards and the Stones. It shows his dedication as a musician and his love for the art. The documentary features interviews from Tom Waits, Buddy Guy, Steve Jordan (who produced and drummed on Crosseyed Heart), X-Pensive Winos guitarist Waddy Wachtel and Richards’ long-serving guitar tech Pierre de Beauport.
27 Gone Too Soon
27 Gone Too Soon explores the circumstances surrounding the tragic deaths at 27 of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse.
Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix all died at the age of 27 between 1969 and 1971. At the time, the coincidence gave rise to some comment, but it was not until the death of Kurt Cobain, about two and a half decades later, that the idea of a “27 Club” began to catch on in public perception, reignited again with the death of Amy Winehouse in 2011.
This group represent just a few of the many well-known singers and musicians who died at that age and this film looks at the phenomenon and tries to understand why these particular stars are so mythologised and celebrated, and why indeed their lives ended when they did. Through interviews with musicians, critics and medical experts, the film investigates the lives, music, and artistry of these lost icons, forever frozen in time at the age of 27.
Rush Beyond The Lighted Stage
Rush Beyond The Lighted Stage is a documentary about the Canadian hard rocker Rush. The story offers an in-depth look at the band’s history and musical evolution. Get a behind the scenes look at innovative progressive rock power trio that is not seen on stage.
Gaga: Five Foot Two
Gaga: Five Foot Two is a documentary that follows Lady Gaga as she records and produces her fifth studio album Joanne and here critically praised Super Bowl performance. It features a vulnerable and passionate Gaga. You get a glimpse into Gaga’s everyay home life, encounters with fans, her dealings with fibromyalgia along with other issues.
What Happened, Miss Simone? Is a documentary that depicts the life of American singer Nina Simone, who became a civil rights activist and moved to Liberia following the turbulence of the 1960s. The documentary combines previously unreleased archival footage and interviews with Simone’s daughter and friends. The title of the film was taken from a Maya Angelou quote.
Any 90’s music fan will want to check out Oasis: Supersonic. This music documentary chronicles the rise of British rock group Oasis and the creativity and chaos that brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher brought to the iconic band. It details their formative years and the height of their success in the 1990s, featuring off-screen interviews and commentary from band members and friends.
Homecoming “A Film by Beyoncé is a concert film written, directed and executive-produced solely by Beyoncé. It features her performance at the 2018 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, It was described as an “intimate, in-depth look” of the concert, revealing “the emotional road from creative concept to a cultural movement.”
The concert features both of her performances from Coachella 2018’s two weekends with small fragments of rehearsal footage of her getting her post-pregnancy body up to performance level.
Miles Davis: The Birth of the Cool
Miles Davis: The Birth of the Cool is a documentary that unpacks the mythology of Miles Davis. Described as a visionary, innovatory, and originator he defied categorization and embodied the word cool. This music documentary chronicles the life and times of a jazz legend with never-before-seen footage and celebrity interviews.
For more information and other documentaries check out Netflix.com