Wednesday, July 4

Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll

The other night I was watching the hit-or-miss HD music channel MHD when I randomly caught an excellent documentary about Chuck Berry. Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll is Taylor Hackford's film about one of the grandfathers of rock. (As I see it, Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson are the great-grandfathers of rock and roll, and those of The Rollings Stones/Beatles generation are the fathers.) The film has no narrator and instead focuses on Berry talking about his life and other people talking about him. Commentators include Bruce Springsteen, Bo Diddley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and The Everly Brothers. These interviews alone--especially Richard and Diddley--are worth watching.

Oscar-winner Hackford--who directed Ray, is married to Helen Mirren, and has a forthcoming documentary on Michael Jackson entitled Smooth Criminal--presents a truly intimate account of Berry's life. The biographical aspects are interwoven with the run-up and eventual concert for Berry's 60th birthday. That performance is very entertaining, with appearances by Keith Richards, blues kings Eric Clapton and Robert Cray, Julian Lennon, Linda Ronstadt (!), and Etta James.

By the end of the film I really felt like I got to know one of the great historical figures of Twentieth Century music. And man, what a cool, charismatic, sharp, well-spoken, confident guy. Highly recommended. If only MHD hadn't killed my buzz by following with Ricky Martin: MTV Unplugged...

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

This picture is great. I love the cheesy white guy sitting in the front. I feel like he's saying to himself, "Oh goody!"