Music Documentaries You Must See to Believe

Have you ever heard a life story that was too powerful to believe? Below you can find five biographical documentaries that challenged the truth and caused controversy and disbelief among the public.

Amy

2015 / Asif Kapadia (director)

A sad, stark study of a public life and death” is how The Guardian describes this raw and controversial documentary about Amy Winehouse’s volatile life. The film contains home-video footage and testimonials of friends and family. And because the director got complete access to the song catalog, we can also follow Amy Winehouse via her music.

Amy” is an intimate experience. It pictures the rise and fall of the English singer-songwriter in a tender but sometimes uncomfortable way. It consciously steps away from the commercial music brand and shows Amy Winehouse as a human. 

The Two Killings of Sam Cooke

2019 / Kelly Duane (director) / Jeff Zimbalist & Michael Zimbalist (writer)

Sam Cooke rose to fame as one of the most influential soul singers of the century. He established his own record label (SAR Records) and publishing company (Kags). He was also active as a civil rights activist and had thighs with Malcolm X.

This documentary tells the story of Cooke’s life and investigates the controversy around his mysterious murder in 1964. The question of whether his murder was related to his involvement with the civil rights movement, or the mob that wanted to take over his publishing company, are central elements in the final chapter of this documentary.

I Called Him Morgan

2016 / Kasper Collin (director & writer)

I called him Morgan” are the words of Helen Morgan in an interview she gave two decades after she shot and killed her common-law husband, Lee Morgan.

The documentary is not a study into the life of hard bob trumpeter Lee Morgan. Instead, It’s a drama narrating the relationship between him and Helen. Via interviews with former band members and friends, we get a picture of what caused the fatal shooting of this celebrated musician who featured in bands with Dizzy Gillespie and Art Blakey.

Lee Morgan’s story is spellbinding. A young talented musician who struggled with a drug addiction and got murdered. This is the story of a musician who obtained his place in history next to Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, or Miles Davis, as one of the greatest trumpet players in history.

What Happened, Miss Simone?

2015 / Liz Garbus (director & writer)

A breathtaking documentary of the life of legend Nina Simone. The story, written and directed by Liz Garbus, tells the story of her life as a singer, pianist, and civil rights activist. The documentary features unreleased images, concert footage, and interviews.

The documentary attempts to understand Nina Simone’s civil rights activism and the impact it had on her musical career. It perfectly captures who Nina Simone was, her honesty when performing, and her protest that led to her being banned from radio stations. Songs like ‘Mississippi Goddam‘ turned her into a controversial female lack singer embraced by the civil rights movement but rejected by the music industry.

Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary

2016 / John Scheinfeld (director & writer)

Chasing Trane is an epic portrait of the legendary forward-thinking saxophonist who innovated and influenced jazz music in many ways. This story explores the impact of Coltrane’s life on the music he made. 

It’s a classic, well-made biographical movie built on personal interviews with his children and grandchildren, friends, and fellow musicians. It creates honest insights into the life of the jazz titan.  The documentary includes footage of Coltrane’s performances and uses the musician’s own words, read by Denzel Washington. At times, it analysis Coltrane’s compositions and his unique way of playing.

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Bertolt.

Bertolt Press Founder & Editor

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