Monday, 21 February 2011
Some of my favorite biopics nowadays are Walk The Line, Velvet Goldmine, Control, Notorious,...and currently I am watching Bird, a movie about Charlie Parker, a jazz musician. There was a biopic about John Lennon pre-Beatles before Nowhere Boy. The unorthodox part is that I don't listen to either Johnny Cash, David Bowie or anything glam rock, Biggie Smalls, Joy Division, Charlie Parker, or John Lennon. (readers collectively gasp) I don't regularly listen to their music much. So, why watch?
The thing is that its about more than just the music for me. I like to be a fly on the wall of a musician before they became a musician, when they became a musician, to the turmoils and all. Biopics give me a proper look into the minds of musical legends everywhere. I want to know what motivates them to do what they do, and what inspires some of the things they do. Knowing an artist's backstory can give me more insight through a person's music and choice in music. Biopics surely let me know that no one just walks into music making music. Most of the time there is a past or a present influencing them. Maybe every now and then, it makes me more interested to listen to their songs or albums.
One day, a person showed me a documentary about musician Daniel Johnston. The movie is simply called The Devil and Daniel Johnston.
It's about how he grew up in a religious conservative household with a bipolar disorder and depression, and decided to handle it with the aid of musicmaking. He learned to play piano, learns to play guitar, and sings, despite anyone's thought of his voice. People took his music as heartfelt and genius, with a Beatles influence. From the looks of it, Daniel's imagination and his personality was somewhere near childlike, which added to his often prickly recordings. The more he did music, the more it helped him deal with personal demons through religious imagery and recording.
And while it didn't quite make me a fan of his music (like most biopics will do), it gave me a closer understanding of both it and why some people do music outside of any introduction to the masses: sometimes, music is there just to help you get through the day.
The things that biopics taught me about musicians is that none of the celebrated ones were without personal turmoils, successes, failures, discontentment with the media, etc. In fact, all of their experiences seem to not only influence their music, but make it stronger. Geniuses become genius long after they have dealt with some things before and after the music.
Best of all, biopics show me how intersting things get from behind the curtains.
What's your favorite musical biopic?