Music Docs by Robert Mugge

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In the early and mid 1970s, the release of songs like "Let's Stay Together," "Love and Happiness," "Tired of Being Alone," and "Take Me to The River" made Al Green one of the most successful soul and pop singers in the world. However, as the decade progressed, Green suffered an existential crisis, prompted by a questioning of his own increasingly decadent lifestyle, as well as by the death of a girlfriend who scalded him with hot grit...Read More
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Since the 1960s, generations of fans have adopted outdoor festivals as the ideal place to experience live musical performances. But in recent years, the best American music festivals have moved onboard specially chartered cruise ships sailing from the U.S. to the Caribbean, Mexico, and elsewhere. One of the first and most successful of these, Roger Naber's Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise, is now considered the true "Woodstock of the W...Read More
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In 1976, "music filmmaker" Robert Mugge created his first music-related film. Titled GEORGE CRUMB: VOICE OF THE WHALE, it was this dazzling, 54-minute portrait of Pulitzer Prize-winning and Grammy-winning composer George Crumb. The film was funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and makes innovative use of color and a dialectical structure to reveal Crumb's life (green-tinted-footage), his work (blue-tinted footage...Read More
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BLACK WAX is a musical-political entertainment film produced and directed by Robert Mugge in 1982. It was the first American film to be fully funded by Britain's then-brand-new Channel 4 Television and also likely the first film to use Steadicam from first frame to last. BLACK WAX centers on the late African American poet-singer-songwriter Gil Scott-Heron - the man Melody Maker called "the most dangerous musician alive" and many dubbe...Read More
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Robert Mugge's 2003 music documentary, LAST OF THE MISSISSIPPI JUKES, explores the fading traditions of rural Mississippi juke joints. The blues was first played by itinerant musicians in juke joints on the edge of cotton plantations, later migrating into so-called urban lounges, and regional musicians still practice their craft and entertain their fans in both, as well as in modern blues clubs and casino lounges. The film focuses, in...Read More
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Like their neighbors, members of the legendary New Orleans music community were devastated by Hurricane Katrina and its tragic aftermath. With NEW ORLEANS MUSIC IN EXILE, noted music documentarian Robert Mugge (DEEP BLUES, GOSPEL ACCORDING TO AL GREEN, THE KINGDOM OF ZYDECO, RHYTHM 'N' BAYOUS) creates an emotional portrait of horror, heartbreak, and hope as the musicians who lived through the disaster pick up the pieces and try to reb...Read More
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Director Robert Mugge, having recently made the film DEEP BLUES (1991) about the blues traditions of Mississippi, decided to follow up with a tribute to Alligator and its roster of top contemporary blues artists from Chicago and elsewhere. The resulting film, PRIDE AND JOY: THE STORY OF ALLIGATOR RECORDS, presents musical highlights from one of the 4-plus-hour concerts (March 12th at Philadelphia's Chestnut Cabaret) that made up the ...Read More
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"In his new film, RHYTHM 'N' BAYOUS, Mr. Mugge returns to the South (this time to Louisiana) to compile a singing dictionary of the state's roots music styles and assorted hybrids, from the blues to 'swamp pop' to the fusion of Cajun, Creole and rock 'n' roll known as zydeco. Part musical travelogue, part anthology, part archival document, RHYTHM 'N' BAYOUS is a rambling journey loosely divided into four sections. Begun as the officia...Read More
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"Robert Mugge is a filmmaker with a music critic's sensibility. His good taste in subjects is matched by the subtle way in which he lets his movies reveal all the music that fits. The result is filmmaking that informs and entertains, and in the age of overblown music videos and the blatantly artful hard sell of music, Mugge's movies are a relief to watch. For salsa fans, THE RETURN OF RUBEN BLADES is a must-see. Politicos looking for ...Read More
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Tenor saxophone master Sonny Rollins has long been hailed as one of the most important artists in jazz history, and still, today, he is viewed as the greatest living jazz improviser. In 1986, filmmaker Robert Mugge produced SAXOPHONE COLOSSUS, a feature-length portrait of Rollins, named after one of his most celebrated albums. The project began in May of that year when Mugge and a small crew accompanied Sonny and Lucille Rollins to To...Read More
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Years ahead of his time, composer, keyboard player, bandleader, poet, and philosopher Sun Ra coupled images of outer space with those of ancient Egypt, acoustic instruments with electronic ones, and modern American musical genres (jazz, soul, gospel, blues, swing) with the sounds of Africa and the Caribbean. He also combined his music with dance, poetry, colorful costumes and backdrops, and pure theatricality, influencing other innova...Read More
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"THE KINGDOM OF ZYDECO is both a cunning little comedy of manners and a sweet-tempered celebration of American roots music. The Chavis-Jocque tussle is prototypical American status buffoonery painted in folk-miniature. Both these men kick out the jams in thrilling performances filmed with blissful authority by Mugge, a specialist in roots music documentaries." - Gene Seymour, New York Newsday
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In 2014 & 2015, filmmaker Robert Mugge assisted Philadelphia public radio station WXPN in its exploration of the Creole culture of Southwest Louisiana via its yearlong Zydeco Crossroads project. The resulting film features performances by C.J. Chenier, Rosie Ledet, Buckwheat Zydeco, Nathan Williams, Chubby Carrier, Rockin' Dopsie, Jr., Major Handy, Vasti Jackson, Creole United, and Soul Creole.