5 Music Documentaries to Watch (Vol. 1)

by Ilaria Mangiardi



televisions displaying different images
televisions displaying different images
televisions displaying different images

What happens behind the scenes stays behind the scenes. Or not?

When we think of our favourite singers and musicians, we tend to romanticise them, so it’s not a surprise that music documentaries are so popular. We crave to know what they do in their daily lives, we’re curious to see if their stage persona coincides with who they really are or, more simply, we daydream of being in the recording studio for a peek into their creative process.

In these uncertain times, where the only certain thing is to avoid the outside world as much as possible, there’s a chance you’ll indulge in some binge-watching (just don’t forget to stretch those beautiful legs of yours).

Music docs are the best because they’re:

  • A quick and easy way to know a lot about your music icons
  • A qualitative and quantitative experience filled with anecdotes and fun facts
  • Good material for an epic conversation with family, friends or strangers
  • Less time-consuming than music biographies (although they’re great too)
  • A self-esteem boost, especially when you realise that they woke-up-like-this NOT (unless they asked their glam artist to give that nude effect)

Recent or less recent, it doesn’t matter as long as they’re juicy. And if they tell a different story than the one we’re used to, well, that’s some extra 50 points.

Getting entertained while learning something new: it doesn’t get better than that. Here are our first 5 recommendations, the first episode of a series.

Make sure you come back for more. We’ll be waiting for you. No pressure.

1. The Two Killings of Sam Cooke


YEAR: 2019


Kelly Duane de la Vega

A soul music pioneer, an inspired songwriter and a tenacious civil rights leader. His death, though, still remains shrouded in mystery.

“We were all waiting, 30 or 40 people around a little television, waiting for Sam to come on. It was like seeing God, really.”

2. 20 Feet from Stardom


YEAR: 2013

STARRING: Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer, Merry Clayton, Judith Hill, Tata Vega

DIRECTOR: Morgan Neville

IN A NUTSHELL: The untold true story of the backup singers whose voices bring harmony to the biggest bands in popular music.

OUR FAVOURITE QUOTE: “The feeling that you get from people screaming in the audience.. If you’re always looking for that in life, you’re going to crash.”

3. What Happened, Miss Simone?


YEAR: 2015

STARRING: Nina Simone

DIRECTOR: Liz Garbus

IN A NUTSHELL: Never-before-heard recordings, rare archival footage and her best-known songs. This is the story of legendary singer and activist Nina Simone.

OUR FAVOURITE QUOTE: “What I was interested in was conveying an emotional message, which means using everything you’ve got inside you sometimes to barely make a note, or if you have to strain to sing, you sing. So sometimes I sound like gravel, and sometimes I sound like coffee and cream.”

4. The Beatles: Eight Days A Week The Touring Years


YEAR: 2016

STARRING: Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, John Lennon

DIRECTOR: Ron Howard

IN A NUTSHELL: From their club dates in Liverpool to their concert tours in Europe and the rest of the world, the documentary examines the impact of those years on each of The Beatles.

OUR FAVOURITE QUOTE: “I’m George Harrison and I play solo guitar, yeah. And this is John Lennon and play better guitar.”

5. Eat That Question: Frank Zappa In His Own Words


YEAR: 2016

STARRING: Frank Zappa

DIRECTOR: Thorsten Schütte

IN A NUTSHELL: A frank documentary about the frankest man ever. You might not know his music, but you can’t stop listening when he’s talking.

OUR FAVOURITE QUOTE: “There is no such thing as a dirty word. There is no word, nor any sound, that you can make with your mouth that is so powerful that it will condemn you to the lake of fire at the time when you hear it. ‘Dirty words’ is a fantasy manufactured by religious fanatics and government organizations to keep people stupid. Any word that gets the point across is a good word. If you wanna tell somebody to ‘get fucked,’ that’s the best way to tell him.”