The Handbook
The Handbook

While we’re sat waiting for the world to open up once again and remerge with live music, gigs and crowds, get your musical fix with these ten music documentaries exploring some of the greatest musicians of past and present. 

From What Happened, Miss Simone, the heart wrenching documentary that delves into the troubled livelihood of Nina Simone, to exploring the inner world of one of the biggest girl bands in the 21st century, here’s what to add to your watch list this week.

What Happened, Miss Simone?

Nina Simone is undoubtedly one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century, if not of all time. From the way she used her voice to captivate audiences, with them gripping at their seats with every note and lyric sung, to her alluring glistening costumes she was draped in as she headed out on stage, Simone made it her commitment go up on stage every night, performance after performance, and do it brilliantly. But what Netflix’s What Happened, Miss Simone? reveals is that she was struggling with hidden demons inside of her. 

Nominated for the Best Documentary Feature at the 88th Academy Awards, Netflix’s 2015 documentary trawls through never-seen-before footage, examining the mysteries behind the stage doors. Slotted alongside interviews from her daughter Lisa Simone and fellow musicians and friends of Simone’s, it makes for a brilliant and engrossing watch.

Song Exploder

What started out as a humble music podcast created by Hrishikesh Hirway back in 2014, has since blossomed into a fully blown Netflix series that’s definitely worth adding to your watch list as soon as you can. 

Made up of twenty minute episodes, each episode focuses on one song, with the musician deconstructing and breaking down the lyrics, process and sounds. From Lin-Manuel Miranda dissecting ‘Wait for It’ to Alicia Keys exploring her hit ‘3 Hours Drive’, learn a little more about your favourite artists quickly and easily. They’re super snappy episodes that are really easy to digest too.

Hip-Hop Evolution

Now in its fourth season, Hip-Hop Evolution is a Netflix original series exploring the history and popular growth of hip-hop music, rising from the United States in the 1970s through to present day. 

It explores the foundations of hip-hop from Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash, through to deconstructing the differences and similarities between hip-hop music created on the East Coast of America to the West Coast of America and beyond.

Miss Americana

Living in today’s society, being a female musician in the limelight these days comes with the expectation of perfection, of paparazzi capturing your every move. It’s exhausting both from an inside perspective and looking in at it from a fan’s perspective. Which is exactly the reason Taylor Swift took a year away. Away from the flashing lights, the eagle eye of the paparazzi and the scrutiny. 

Netflix’s Miss Americana explores Swift’s journey to where she is now, from becoming the ‘perfect’ individual the music professionals, media and the world wanted her to be, to her taking a step back and reevaluating the situation and power she has an influencing voice. Through tears, laughter and heartbreak, explore how Swift transitioned from the ‘perfect’ girl to who she is today. 

I Called Him Morgan

There are a lot of things you don’t see behind closed doors, and the turbulent relationship between Helen Morgan and her husband Lee Morgan, the lively jazz musician, is one of them. On a cold winter’s night in February 1972, Helen pulled out a gun on her husband and shot him following a jazz performance and argument between the pair. Following the shot, she longingly waited for the police to come and find her. 

After serving a prison sentence for the killing of Lee, she’s interviewed about her life with the renowned jazz superstar. Hard to listen at times, it’s definitely one to add to your watch list if you’re a fan of the great Lee Morgan. 

Springsteen on Broadway

Perhaps a little different from the typical music documentary but Springsteen’s, Springsteen on Broadway deserves a mention here because although it follows a concert residency at the WalterKerr Theatre in New York, the legend draws on personal essays and stories that made up his life and musical career. 

Loosely based on his autobiography, Born To Run, the Netflix original documentary follows Springsteen as he delves into his upbringing through to his historic career, with a few acoustic versions of his hit songs thrown in for good measure. It’s heartwarming, exhilarating and a great watch.

BLACKPINK: Light Up The Sky

Boasting over 33million followers on Instagram alone, it’s clear that BLACKPINK have huge influence, but have you ever listened to them? Late last year we delved deeper in the vibrant, energetic world of K-pop but if you’re yet to jump onto the Korean pop bandwagon, perhaps Netflix’s original documentary will spur you on. 

Made up of Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé and Liza, the famous four are known for their single Ddu-Du Ddu-Du, which is one of the hits to contribute to their insane amount of YouTube views and helped confirm their spot on major arena tours. Their documentary film, BLACKPINK: Light Up The Sky follows the girl band as they set out to release their second album and gives fans and audiences the chance to really see what it’s like being in one of the world’s biggest and brightest pop bands.

Homecoming

Fancy delving a little deeper into the world of Queen Bey? Netflix’s 2019 documentary gives fans an insight into Beyonce’s much adored 2018 Coachella performance, while touching on ‘the emotional road from creative concept to cultural movement’. 

Directed by Ed Burke and Beyoncé herself, Homecoming really lets us see an emotional side to the most celebrated female artist of our generation, with a few catchy tunes thrown in for good measure.

Quincy 

Uncover the laughter, the secrets and the legendary career of American record producer, singer and film producer Quincy Jones in the 2018 documentary, aptly titled Quincy. 

Co-written and co-directed by Alan Hicks and Rashida Jones, this Netflix original documentary delves a little deeper into the livelihood of iconic musician Quincy, from his childhood to his monumental musical career, helping to pave the way for jazz musicians from the beginning.

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese

It’s not every day a world famous musician returns from a prolonged hiatus and returns to play tiny venues in dusty, rural towns nobody has ever heard of. But then again, not everybody is Bob Dylan. 

In Netflix’s original documentary from the iconic filmmaker Martin Scorsese, Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by MArtin Scorsese documents the trials and tribulations of the dispirited nature of America in 1975, and journeys through Bob Dylan’s tour of the same year, in which he performed at small venues that fit a mere hundred or so people, rather than returning from a lengthened hiatus to stadiums.


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