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Beat The Cold With These 5 Music Documentaries On Netflix

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 5, 2014 5:00PM

A Still from Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me. (© 2013 - Magnolia Pictures)

The Midwest and northeast are hunkering down for some near-record breaking cold the next two days. Here in Chicago, the mercury won't sniff the zero degree mark Monday or Tuesday and wind chills are expected to make it feel like it's minus 40 outside. Forget fashion; corduroy and long johns will be standard issue for those of us who have to leave the house.

The brutal weather can be a blessing in disguise for people looking to clear out their Netflix queues (if they haven't done so already) and music buffs fighting cabin fever with deep cuts from their record collections. Why not combine the two and watch some music documentaries?

Netflix purged a ton of movies on New Years Day and added a slew of others. Chicagoist has selected five music documentaries that should be in your queues and streaming until the weather becomes more manageable later this week.

Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me
Drew DiNicola and Olivia Mori's 2012 film about the doomed and ahead of its time power pop band that inspired the likes of REM, The Replacements, The Posies, Teenage Fanclub and The dB's, manages to both serve as a loving fan testimonial while digging deep into the group's troubled history. Alex Chilton gets the lion's share of the attention but the truly tragic figure in the Big Star story is Chris Bell, who quit the group after the failure of its stellar debut album and died in obscurity at age 27 in 1978. Chilton went on to have the most notable post-Big Star music career; Nothing Can Hurt Me makes a convincing argument that Bell was as integral to the band's legacy, if not more so, than Chilton.

Charles Bradley: Soul of America
Along with Lee Fields and Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley keeps the flame of old school soul and R&B music alive and has helped establish the Daptone and Dunham labels as America's foremost labels for retro soul. This 2012 documentary follows Bradley's transformation from performing as a James Brown impersonator to the release of his debut album, No Time for Dreaming. Director Poull Brien captures Bradley struggling in a Brooklyn housing project taking care of his mother as he works to discover his own voice during recording and rehearsal sessions. The work paid off as No Time for Dreaming was released to near-universal acclaim and catapulted Bradley to stardom.


Levon Helm: Ain't In it For My Health
The legacy of the legendary drummer and singer of The Band was already secure by the time of his 2012 death. This film captures Helm at home and on the road as he garners late career fame and tries to come to grips with his musical past. Helm, more than any member of The Band, carried a grudge against Robbie Robertson nearly to his grave and Jacob Hartley's 2010 documentary captures Helm's late career renaissance fueled by equal parts pride and passion, piss and vinegar, and an inherent need to cement his legacy before his time ran out.

A Band Called Death
Mark Covino and Jeff Howlett tell the near-forgotten story of this trio of black kids from Detroit who formed a band called death and played what would, a decade later, be known as punk music. Covino and Howlett convincingly take Death and inserts them as a bridge between the MC5 and Bad Brains, while chronicling the band's recent reformation and critical success.

An Affair of the Heart
Sylvia Caminer's 2012 documentary of Rick Springfield is saccharine yet meaty, touching on the reasons why the onetime soap opera heartthrob and power pop singer faded into obscurity in the late 80s and 90s before returning to the stage in a career renaissance. The story gives equal weight to the die-hard, multi-generational fans who continue to support Springfield to this day.