2023 promises to be a great year for lovers of music documentaries, after a 2022 avalanche of films that were (sorry) music to every fan’s ears.
Last year’s music-stacked slate came on the heels of the 2021 Beatles behemoth “Get Back,” and featured artfully crafted tributes to musicians ranging from Lizzo (“Love, Lizzo”) to Machine Gun Kelly (“Life in Pink”).
This year already features a few movies that help retell the fascinating 50-year story of hip hop and its ascendance from Bronx house party soundtrack to global cultural force. So far, we’ve got insights from both Chuck D of seminal group Public Enemy, as well as a new documentary on Ol’ Dirty Bastard of Wu-Tang Clan.
Here’s what else fans can look forward to in 2023:
‘Fight the Power: How Hip-Hop Changed the World’
Few hip-hop artists challenged the status quo more than Public Enemy. One of the group’s central figures, Chuck D, explores that rich legacy in a new four-part PBS documentary series “Fight the Power: How Hip-Hop Changed the World.”
The series uses firsthand accounts from some of rap’s most integral pioneers – including Killer Mike, Will.i.am, Monie Love, Ice-T, Roxanne Shante and MC Lyte – to recount the origins of the revolutionary art form and explore how hip-hop has grown into the mainstream cultural force it is today.
Director: Chuck D and Lorrie Boula
When and where to watch: Streaming now on PBS
‘j-hope IN THE BOX’
Fans of the South Korean boy band BTS, of which there are legions, will want to catch “j-hope IN THE BOX,” a documentary that explores the first solo album – “Jack in the Box” – released by j-hope, the band’s kinetic lead dancer.
Disney+ promises fans “a never-before-seen look at the creative challenges faced during the album’s preparation process, as well as front row seats to j-hope’s 2022 Lollapalooza performance (where he was the first South Korean act to headline) and the album’s listening party.”
Director: The film is produced by Hybe, the South Korean entertainment company.
When and where to watch: Feb. 17 on Disney+
‘Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming, with Dave Letterman’
Filmmaker Morgan Neville, who won an Oscar for the 2014 documentary “20 Feet From Stardom,” is training his eye on U2’s dynamic duo of Bono and The Edge in “Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming, with Dave Letterman.”
Neville captures Letterman on his first visit to Dublin to hang out with Bono and The Edge in their hometown and attend a concert given by the two longtime friends who formed U2 as teens. The doc is timed to the release of a new 40-song set, “Songs of Surrender,” the same title given to Bono’s recently released memoir.
Director: Morgan Neville
When and where to watch: March 17 on Disney+
‘Little Richard: I Am Everything’
Mention Little Richard and most people will come back with the inimitable made-up musical intro to his 1955 hit, “Tutti Frutti”: “A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop, a-lop-bam-boom!” But that creatively vocalized drum pattern aside, the massive influence of Little Richard (born Richard Penniman) cannot be overstated. It’s there in the gyrations of Elvis Presley and the “wooo” of Paul McCartney, just to name two.
Finally, the innovator is given his due in “Little Richard: I Am Everything,” which not only celebrates the singer’s irrepressible talent but also dives deep into his multifaceted persona. The Sundance Film Festival documentary explores through “interviews with family, musicians, and cutting-edge Black and queer scholars … how Richard created an art form for ultimate self-expression, yet what he gave to the world he was never able to give to himself,” a news release says.
Director: Lisa Cortés
When and where to watch: In theaters in April; on CNN and streaming at a later date
‘Willie Nelson and Family’
Well, it’s about time. Willie Nelson is beyond overdue for a documentary, and now he’s got a full-on docuseries in “Willie Nelson and Family,” which promises to be an intimate portrait of the 70-year career of the Red Headed Stranger. The hits of the stylistically unique singer and songwriter – ranging from “Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain” to “Always On My Mind” – are as indelible as his braided hair and battered nylon-string guitar.
The doc is directed by Thom Zimny and Oren Moverman, the former famous for his movie collaborations with Bruce Springsteen. Not that it takes much persuasion to get stars to sit for interviews when you’re talking about an American cowboy legend who, as the movie describes, “transcended his humble beginnings in small-town Abbott, Texas,” and “remains beloved in blue states, red states and let’s not forget – altered states.”
Directors: Thom Zimny and Oren Moverman
When and where to watch: Expected in 2023
Indigo Girls’ ‘It’s Only Life After All’
Fans of the Indigo Girls now have their documentary. In “It’s Only Life After All,” director Alexandria Bombach asks Amy Ray and Emily Saliers frank questions about what it was like to be proudly out in their ’90s heyday.
Known for upbeat, confessional guitar-focused songs such as “Closer to Fine” and “Galileo,” the duo met in elementary school and rode the growing singer-songwriter wave and intersected with a women’s movement that sometimes found the duo becoming a parody of themselves. But the doc shows us the women were more than aware of that irony while also remaining faithful to their art and fans.
Director: Alexandria Bombach
When and where to see: Expected in 2023
‘Biography: Ol’ Dirty Bastard’
Wu-Tang Clan was a pioneering rap group whose work influenced many peers and continues to resonate today. There have already been a few documentaries chronicling their musical journey, including Alex Tse’s Hulu series “Wu-Tang: An American Saga.”
But now there’s one in the works for 2023 on one of the group’s most integral figures, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, born Russell Jones, who died in 2004. The A&E Networks special “Biography: Ol’ Dirty Bastard” is the first-ever film authorized by the late rapper’s estate. The doc will feature interviews with his peers, family and ODB’s wife, Icelene Jones – who allowed filmmakers Sam and Jason Pollard to use never-been-seen footage for the two-hour documentary.
Directors: Sam Pollard and son Jason Pollard
When and where to watch: This year on A&E Networks
Take a deeper dive into music movies:
Story Credit: usatoday.com