"It's funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen."

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Genuine Artists: Strummer, Baker, and Rodriguez

A fantastic triple-bill of films about musicians filled my afternoon.  They're very different musicians, but  they all profoundly affected a ton of people because they get beyond the mundane - or immerse themselves in it.

Joe Strummer, front man for the Clash, is painted as a charming (but depressive) guy with a joyful spirit that brought people together.  Most of the interviews, of a really wide variety of people, take place outside with groups of people hanging out in front of a fire.  The film has a feel to it that made me want to live a different life just wandering around hanging out.  A brief, vicarious immersion in that bohemian lifestyle stayed with me.  It's a reminder of how unnecessary all the stuff is so long as we have the people.

The second film was also about a wandering soul:  Ginger Baker.  He was available for lengthy interviews with the filmmaker, which was very cool, and parts of the stories were animated stylistically so it wasn't just a montage of talking heads.  Nicely done.  But he came across as too quick-tempered to maintain any of the connections he made over his career.  He's bitter, and not for nothing.  Something I learned from the film is that only the songwriters get royalties for the music.  When he was in Cream, one of my all-time favourite bands, the songs were written mainly by Jack Bruce and Peter Brown.  They got all the cash, and Baker and Clapton got nothing beyond the money for touring and playing the initial recording.  I'd be bitter too.

The third film is a very different story: Searching for Sugar Man.  This is more of a detective story as a few interested fans search for Sixto Rodriguez, a musician barely known here, but with an enormous following in South Africa.  The music didn't get me for this one like it did the others, but the story is captivating.  Imagine having a talent that you think went entirely unappreciated and being completely unaware that people in another continent are nuts over you.  It's one thing to be the rare few with a talent like these guy have, it's another thing to have an audience that acknowledges that.  Without any appreciative feedback, how long will you believe you're as good as you think you are?  And maybe it doesn't really matter.  

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