The June 2022 release of biographical musical drama, Elvis, continues to have many theater fans and critics talking. The film not only noted a loose interpretation of Elvis Presley’s life, but also documented his musical journey to fame. There have been many music documentaries over the years that have shown just that with many other famous musicians and bands.
These documentaries have been broadcast around the world, giving fans around the world the opportunity to not only appreciate the artists’ music, but also learn where and how they got their start. From Amy Winehouse to Kurt Cobain, HBO Max offers a variety of great music documentaries that span not just time but musical genres as well.
DMX: Don’t Try to Understand (2021)
A popular rapper and actor who got his start in the late ’90s, Earl “DMX” Simmons was a talented musician. Releasing eight studio albums and 47 singles, he earned his status in the rap community. From 1998 to 2021, he faced many setbacks with legal issues and addiction, however, he continued to be active in the entertainment industry until his death in April 2021.
In DMX: Don’t try to understand, the documentary followed DMX after he was released from prison for tax evasion in early 2019. Viewers got an in-depth look at his upbringing in Yonkers, New York, to his rise to fame in the 90s, all from point of view of DMX itself. This stunning documentary paints a picture of DMX as a human and not just a music legend, showcasing his struggles and successes with commentary from his family and DMX himself.
Elvis Presley: The Seeker (2018)
With the movie Elvis one of the best movies to watch on HBO Max this month, fans of the legendary artist can also find the two-part documentary, Elvis Presley: The Seeker, on the streaming giant. The series features interviews with musicians like Bruce Springsteen and Emmylou Harris and delves into Elvis Presley’s rise as a rock and roll pioneer and pop culture icon.
Close examination of Elvis’ declining health and recording sessions a year before his death helps to understand him not only as a musical icon, but also as a struggling man. The film breaks down every aspect of Elvis’ life that served as his rise and fall significance and does an incredible job of doing so.
Juice Wrld: Into the Abyss (2021)
An artist gone too soon, Jarad Anthony Higgins (Juice Wrld) entered the music scene as an independent artist in 2015 and signed with Interscope Records in 2017. Before his death, he successfully released two studio albums which gave him earned praise for its genre. musical style and over a billion streams on Spotify.
The 21-year-old rapper died of an overdose in California in December 2019. After his death, Tommy Oliver released the documentary film Juice Wrld: in the abyss in 2021, which focused on the life and death of the popular rapper. With footage from Juice Wrld’s senior year and interviews with artists like The Kid Laroi and Polo G, the documentary examines every facet of Higgins’ life and influential career.
Kurt Cobain: Devil Edit (2015)
Another talented musician gone too soon, Kurt Cobain was the lead singer of the popular group Nirvana. Through never-before-seen videos and personal recordings, Kurt Cobain: Editing From Hell follows the rise of the star from birth to the end of his life and everything in between.
The only documentary made with the cooperation of Kurt Cobain’s family, the film doesn’t shy away from the troubled musician’s real-life struggles. With supporting footage from numerous interviews given throughout the film, viewers essentially get a behind-the-scenes look at some of the most important moments in Cobain’s life up until his death in 1994.
A living music industry icon and “Queen of Rock and Roll”, Tina Turner rose to fame in her band with her ex-husband, Ike Turner, before going on to pursue a highly successful solo career. From hits like “What’s Love Got To Do With It” and “Private Dancer”, Turner became a force to be reckoned with in the 80s and 90s.
While the documentary explores his rise to fame and early life, it also dives a bit deeper. Viewers learn about the personal and professional issues that plagued the star, but also served as the fuse for one of the biggest comebacks of the 80s, making her a musician deserving of a biopic.
Woodstock 99: Peace, Love and Rage (2021)
An infamous festival that still reigns as one of the most chaotic in history, Woodstock 99 was supposed to be a music festival promoting peace and love, but it quickly turned into chaos and panic. Beginning over three days, the 1999 festival featured a range of artists from Metallica to Alanis Morrissette giving incredible performances, and that’s where the fun ended.
Woodstock 99: Peace, Love and Rage traverses mosh pits and sexual assault to poor environmental conditions to understand how a festival promoting peace and love quickly descended into debauchery and violence. Viewers see footage from the festival with stories from some of the musical acts in attendance, as well as the people in attendance.
Probably one of the best musical documentaries of the last 15 years, Amy focuses on the life of the eclectic and talented Amy Winehouse. Known for her dynamic vocals and mixed use of multiple genres, Winehouse, whose career began as early as 2002, took the music scene by storm with her international success in 2006 with the release of her second album, Back to black.
Winehouse sadly lost his life in 2011, but his music lives on and in 2015 the documentary film Amy premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. It then hit theaters the same year, winning 30 awards, including a Grammy and an Academy Award. The documentary successfully follows Winehouse’s career before and after her addiction, while showing the talent and genius of Winehouse herself.
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (2019)
As one of the first women to lead a male-dominated music industry, Linda Ronstadt chronicles her life and career in the 2019 documentary, Linda Ronstadt: The sound of my voice. The documentary explores his outstanding career across genres which includes country and rock and his move into opera.
Through interviews with his family, friends and collaborators, viewers learn about Rondstadt’s advocacy in a male-centric industry and the things in his personal life that proved both a hindrance and an advantage in his career. .
The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart (2020)
A documentary film that earned him an Emmy and critical acclaim, The Bee Gees: How to mend a broken heart was released in 2020 and directed by Frank Marshall. The film observed the career and life of the legendary family band, The Bee Gees, made up of brothers Robin, Maurice and Barry Gibb.
Featuring interviews with artists from Mark Ronson to Chris Martin, the film sought to explore the hardships of stardom that come with working in the spotlight and with family. Through these interviews, the documentary sheds light on how the band’s influence in the music industry has expanded genres and broken boundaries. One of the best documentaries for those who liked that of Jennifer Lopez half timethe doc is available to watch on HBO Max.
Debuting in a successful group with her siblings (Staple Singers), Mavis Staples shot to fame in 1956 with the group’s first hit, “Uncloudy Day.” From then on, she became a notable voice in the 60s, 70s and beyond. From songs with Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Prince and many others, Mavis has become a spiritual and musical voice for the civil rights movement.
Throughout the Mavis! documentary, audiences will see the impact she and her music had during the era of the civil rights movement. It also delves into his personal life and relationship with his early career. The film chronicles the gospel and soul singer’s 60-year career from the start and expresses how her music has helped shape a decade or two.
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