As you may know, I spend a lot of my time watching documentaries on Netflix. Here are five of my favorite music docs.

5. MUSCLE SHOALS

A small town in Alabama becomes the hottest place in '70s rock to record an album because of a man named Rick Hall whose small studio raised a group of legendary players. The small studio rises from the hot southern R and B scene in the '60s to becoming a must stop for The Rolling Stones, Bob Seger and more throughout the '70s. Why? Because some of the best musicians on the planet play there. Long before the civil rights movements, whites and blacks found a common ground in great music. Local legend Al Green is featured in the trailer below.

4. SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN

One of the weirdest stories ever, filmed on a fan's iPhone, follows a Swedish filmmaker's quest to locate a Detroit musician who had unknowingly become a huge icon in the country of South Africa. Sixto Rodriguez recorded two albums that both bombed in America, but unbeknownst to him, bootleg copies in South Africa had struck a cultural chord and made him an almost hero. Difficult to watch at times, the story has you cheering for Rodriguez, who was a talented underdog, and whose songs will break your heart.

3. THE WRECKING CREW

A group of studio musicians so in demand that they were on most of the hits recorded in the late '60s and early '70s coming out of Los Angeles. In effect, they WERE more involved in Beach Boys records than the actual Beach Boys. I love the fact that the best bass player was a woman, Carol Kaye, who put her own twist on such hits as 'Wichita Lineman', and never once demanded credit. What's beautiful here is the crew's obvious love for each other, and respect for each other's talents.

2. TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM

They were immensely talented and immensely under credited. Background singers who backed some of the biggest rock acts of the '70s, and the stories of the songs they sang on. A story about voices we're all familiar with, and yet, in some cases they were underpaid and misused at times. The best story is the one below about how the background vocal from one of the best rock songs of the '60s, The Rolling Stones 'Gimme Shelter', came about. What a long strange trip it was.

1. HIRED GUNS

The documentary that almost made me hate Billy Joel - this one is about studio session musicians in the '80s and how some were able to claim stardom, while others toiled in obscurity, just missing glory at times. The emotional stories that resonated with me included Billy Joel firing his entire band and not telling them. They found out through the grapevine, and while tough to watch, it is a lesson in loyalty and respect (or lack thereof). The takeaway here is that some of the greatest musicians on some of the biggest hits we know are mostly unknown.

 

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