This deeply affecting documentary starts with an absolutely electrifying clip of the late, amazing Billy Preston at the mic (with Ray Charles at the piano behind him, and a big band) in a light lime suit singing "Agent Double O Soul", dancing like his life depended on his kicking ass at that very moment. It is one of the most unbelievable pop music clips I've ever seen.
What follows is a rap about raw talent that sets up where the film is going. And I got the feeling I was in for a deep, soulful experience, and that something was gonna happen to me.
The film's creators introduce themselves. Andrew Shapter, in narrative form, talks about his brother John, a musician who passed away in 2004. In their last conversation, John expressed his concerns to his brother about how the music industry had abandoned both musicians and the fans. Andrew's friend Joel Rasmussen had also recently lost a sister, a musician. When both men talked about Andrew's brother's concerns, they started to form a plan to travel the country looking for some answers, without any connections of any kind.
They talked with hundreds of people in the music business, especially musicians, many of them with a very high profile. In this film, it is the musicians that are the stars, and who have incredible things to say. The wisdom of Branford Marsalis reached right and grabbed me on the couch and I sat bolt upright and was listening as hard as I could, to every word. ("There was a time in America when it didn't matter how rich you were; you had to have some kind of affiliation with poor people. I think that the greatest music comes from an emotional identification with those that do not have.")
Forrest Whitaker, one of my favorite actors and voices, appears only audibly as the narrator of the story, from time to time. Mostly it's a long line of very interesting people talking about what has happened to music, the actual decline of music. How, since MTV, it has become all about the look, about youth, implants, appearance. How video killed the radio star, and so much more. continue