Transcending Time With Music Icons: The 10 Best Documentaries

July 7, 2023

"Music is the soundtrack of your life." - Dick Clark - Tv Host

As rhythm beats the pulsating heart of culture, music documentaries offer a front-row seat into the creative genius and personal journeys of our most beloved artists. The docu genre brings to life their lyrical narratives, chart-topping hits, and even their onstage fumbles, painting a vivid portrait of these musicians in their element and beyond.

Enter the worlds of musical legends like Paul Simon, the master craftsman of American sound, whose profound storytelling has echoed through the ages. Then, there's Patti LaBelle, whose infamous lyric fumbles during a tribute to Tina Turner at the BET Awards did nothing to dampen her legendary status. Lastly, Lana Del Rey's mesmerizing coordination with the Glastonbury crowd as she sang 'Video Games' revealed the unique bond between an artist and her fans.


various models of guitars in digital art


Music documentaries are more than just about the music; they're about the journey, the fall from grace, and everything in between. They give us a backstage pass into the lives of these musical giants, capturing their most intimate moments and their grandest performances.


Unwrapping the Magic of Musical Legends: Top Ten Documentaries 



Sound City

a music studio with a huge console

Directed and produced by Dave Grohl, this documentary pays tribute to the iconic Sound City Studios, where some of the greatest rock albums of all time were recorded. Featuring interviews with legendary musicians like Neil Young, Tom Petty, and Stevie Nicks, it showcases the remarkable history of the studio and highlights the human element of music in an era dominated by digital technology.


Jesse Cook - Follow The Road

a guitarist with white hair and glasses poses with his guitar

In this documentary, the renowned guitarist, composer, and producer Jesse Cook gives a captivating behind-the-scenes look at a musician's perspective on touring. His directorial debut traces his 31-city journey across Canada, offering an awe-inspiring view of the country's magnificent landscapes. Cook combines his artistic heritage and passion for music in this self-directed concert special, sharing the allure of the road that has inspired him since his departure from Toronto.


20 Feet from Stardom

three women sing in front of a microphone

Shining a spotlight on the untold true story of the backup singers behind some of the greatest musical legends of the 21st century, this movie offers an introspective look at the lives of these predominantly Black, female singers. It pays homage to their musical talent, exploring their journeys, filled with both triumphs and heartaches. This film won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in 2014.


Under African Skies

a woman in a hat and a man with a guitar sing together

This compelling documentary chronicles Paul Simon's return to South Africa in 2011 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his landmark album "Graceland." The film explores the controversy that the album sparked upon its release due to its perceived breach of the cultural boycott against apartheid South Africa. Featuring in-depth interviews with Simon and other key players, the film delves into the layers of politics, culture, and music that intersected to create this groundbreaking album.


John Cage - Journeys in Sound

a man with his back turned in front of a garden

Helmed by Academy Award-winning director Allan Miller and Emmy recipient Paul Smaczny, this evocative documentary paints an intimate portrait of the renowned avant-garde composer, John Cage. The film transports us across the United States, Japan, and Germany, delving into the fragments of Cage's multifaceted life and influential work. Featured luminaries include the likes of Yoko Ono, Christian Wolff, David Tudor, and Mayumi Miyata, among others, who all contribute to shaping this rich, nuanced exploration of Cage's enduring legacy in the world of music and beyond.


Rolling Thunder Revue

a curly-haired blond man plays the guitar, behind a woman plays the violin

Blurring the line between fact and fiction, this Martin Scorsese docudrama captures the restless spirit of America in 1975, and the joyous music that Bob Dylan performed during his enigmatic Rolling Thunder Revue concert tour. Part documentary, part concert film, part fever dream, 'Rolling Thunder Revue' is a vibrant expression of an artist in the midst of his creative peak, surrounded by an eclectic troupe of musicians and poets.


Beethoven Reloaded

a man with brown hair and a sad look

Accentuating our acclaimed series "The Power of Music," brought to you by Accentus Music, this groundbreaking documentary stands as a pivotal contribution to the understanding of Ludwig van Beethoven's impact in the past decade. Journeying through an eclectic mix of artistic and educational endeavors centered around the maestro's creations, the film provides a rejuvenated perspective on his biography. It aims to comprehend and articulate the indelible role that Beethoven still occupies within the global cultural consciousness, enriching our understanding of the power of his timeless music.


Jazz on a Summer's Day

a wide-eyed trumpeter

Tailored specifically for music aficionados, this documentary is an immersive voyage into the heart of jazz, orchestrated by renowned director Bert Stern. Capturing the pulsating spirit of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island, this film immortalizes the electrifying performances of some of jazz's luminaries. Revel in the captivating performances by the likes of Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Stitt, Chuck Berry, and Mahalia Jackson, among other jazz legends. This cinematic homage to jazz brings alive an era that resonates with the timeless beats of passion, innovation, and sublime artistry.


Music a Journey For Life - Ricardo Chailly

a man receives a hug from a woman and smiles

This Documentary is an intimate cinematic portrait of the renowned Italian maestro, Riccardo Chailly. The film offers a behind-the-scenes look into his creative process, from his meticulous work with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra to his masterful performances at La Scala in Milan and his rehearsals for La Bohème at the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía in Valencia. Chailly's remarkable physical and mental resilience infuses a unique, personal dynamic into his musical collaborations. 


What Happened, Miss Simone?

a beautiful woman with afro

This critically acclaimed documentary offers an unflinching portrait of Nina Simone, the 'High Priestess of Soul.' The film features rare archival footage and interviews, revealing the real woman behind the legend. Exploring her struggles with fame, mental health, and civil rights, the film is a poignant examination of Simone's artistry and activism. It provides an intimate, multidimensional portrait of a woman who was not just a singer, but also a civil rights activist and a symbol of black freedom.


Music documentaries provide an unparalleled perspective into the lives of our favorite artists. They allow us to witness their vulnerabilities, triumphs, and their relentless dedication to their craft. Next time you tune into a music doc or docuseries, remember - it's not just a show, it's an experience.


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