Quarantining over these past three months has made me appreciate even more those elements of everyday life that give me comfort and joy at home. Among them, listening to music ranks high.
As my family and friends will tell you, I’m one of those people who needs to hear music every day. I have it on without fail when cooking, socializing, or simply relaxing. And not just as faint background; I really want to hear it.
It may be rock, blues, or jazz. Sinatra is a frequent guest. I also favor movie scores and soundtracks. Regardless, most always something is playing.
No surprise, I have deep respect for the talented souls who make that music. I’m fascinated by their lives, their process, and where they get their inspiration.
Those who share my passion for great music- and musicians- can access a treasure trove of biopics and documentaries on Amazon, profiling our finest composers, vocalists and musicians. Listed below are just ten of these special titles.
Happy viewing…and listening.
The Buddy Holly Story (1978)
Steve Rash’s atmospheric biopic recounts the ascent of singer/songwriter Buddy Holly (Gary Busey) to sudden fame in the fifties as one the early purveyors of a new kind of music dubbed “rock ‘n’ roll.” Character actor Busey, known for tough guy roles, actually sings Holly’s songs and delivers an astounding performance overall, with an Oscar nomination to show for it.
Full review here. | Rent now on Amazon Video. Also available on Vudu, Google Play Movies, YouTube, Microsoft Store, FandangoNOW, DIRECTV.
Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)
Sissy Spacek won a well-deserved Oscar for her portrayal of Loretta Lynn, who went from an impoverished upbringing in rural Kentucky to become a huge country music star. Her husband Mooney (Tommy Lee Jones) helps launch her but finds his role diminished once she hits the big time. Michael Apted’s film hits all the right notes. Look for Beverly D’Angelo playing Patsy Cline.
Full review here. | Rent now on Amazon Video. Also available on Vudu, Google Play Movies, YouTube, Apple iTunes, AMC on Demand, Microsoft Store, FandangoNOW, Redbox, DIRECTV.
Almost Famous (2000)
Cameron Crowe’s winning, semi-autobiographical feature centers on William (Patrick Fugit), a 15 year-old aspiring music journalist who lands an assignment to cover the tour of a famous rock band for Rolling Stone magazine. He meets some memorable characters on his journey, including musician Russell (Billy Crudup) and groupie Penny Lane (Kate Hudson). A total gas.
Full review here. | Rent now on Amazon Video. Also available on DIRECTV, fuboTV, Showtime, Apple iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play Movies, AMC on Demand, Redbox, Microsoft Store, FandangoNOW.
Jamie Foxx seamlessly transforms himself into legendary performer Ray Charles in Taylor Hackford’s riveting film. We relive the childhood accident that left Ray blind for life, and witness his ascent to musical greatness, with conflicts and compromises along the way. Nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, and Foxx won for his performance. You don’t have to be a music fan to love “Ray”, but it sure helps!
Full review here. | Rent now on Amazon Video. Also available on DIRECTV, HBO Go, HBO Now, HBO Max, Vudu, Google Play Movies, YouTube, Apple iTunes, Microsoft Store, AMC on Demand, DIRECTV, Redbox, FandangoNOW.
La Vie En Rose (2007)
Vivid biopic traces the rise of French chanteuse Edith Piaf (Marion Cotillard) from squalid beginnings to unimagined fame. Sadly, this colossal talent, who gave us the immortal song that serves as the film’s title, never escapes the sorrow of her early years. Cotillard won international fame- and an Oscar- for this, but Gerard Depardieu is every bit as good as her manager.
Full review here. | Rent now on Amazon Video. Also available on Vudu, Google Play Movies, YouTube, Microsoft Store, FandangoNOW.
The Winding Stream (2014)
Fascinating, surprisingly poignant doc traces the origins of American Roots music via the pioneering work and legacy of the Carter family. Many recall June Carter Cash, but few know the story of her mother Maybelle, who partnered with her cousin Sara and Sara’s husband A.C. Carter to put country music on the map, via the exploding medium of radio in the twenties.
Full review here. | Rent now on Amazon Video. Also available on Apple iTunes, Google Play Movies, YouTube, Vudu.
Keep On Keepin’ On (2014)
Trumpeter Clark Terry isn’t a household name, but he’s revered among serious jazz fans and fellow musicians for his talent and humanity. Now 92, he faces serious health issues but still finds time to mentor a young, talented pianist named Justin Kauflin. Their relationship forms the basis of this touching, life-affirming film. Vintage performance clips of Terry add flavor and spice.
Full review here. | Rent now on Amazon Video. Also available on Vudu, Google Play Movies, YouTube, Apple iTunes, Microsoft Store, Redbox.
Asif Kapadia’s heartbreaking profile of late singer Amy Winehouse speaks to the perils of sudden fame. Using home videos, archival footage and on-camera interviews, the film presents a gifted but fragile young woman who’s unprepared for the loss of privacy, relentless pressure and media focus that comes with stardom. Highlight: Amy’s interactions with Tony Bennett.
Full review here. | Rent now on Amazon Video. Also available on Vudu, Apple iTunes, Google Play Movies, YouTube, Microsoft Store, FandangoNOW, DIRECTV, Redbox, Kanopy, Hoopla.
What Happened, Miss Simone? (2016)
Liz Garbus’s film offers fresh insight into the life and legacy of singer Nina Simone, who wanted to be a concert pianist but instead became a top jazz and soul vocalist. Leveraging her fame, Simone was also a prominent civil rights activist in the sixties. Later, she faced setbacks due to violent behavior arising from bi-polar disorder. Don’t miss this engrossing tale of a sad but consequential life.
Full review here. | Rent now on Amazon Video. Also available on Netflix, Apple iTunes.
In the seventies, Linda Ronstadt was the most successful female vocalist in the music business. This fabulous tribute not only brings back hits like “Different Drum”, “You’re No Good” and “Desperado”, it reminds us of the barriers Ronstadt broke through on her rise to the top. We also meet Linda herself, and while Parkinson’s has taken away her singing voice, she still stands tall.
Full review here. | Rent now on Amazon Video. Also available on HBOMax, DIRECTV, Microsoft Store, Apple iTunes, Vudu, Google Play Movies, YouTube, FandangoNOW.