#MustSee: 10 Can’t Miss Music Documentaries

I love live music. Small venue, big venue. Iconic bands or just local bands playing good music. One thing this stupid pandemic has stolen from all of us is the abilities to see bands live. I had some big concert plans ready for this year before COVID-19 ruined everything. In light of these unfortunate times and circumstances, I’ve been having to make due with what’s available to me. One great discovery I’ve made is the Twitter account @80sMTVmemories. True to their name, they post about exactly what you’d think they post about: the golden age of MTV. One thing they’ve resurrected that I had completely forgotten about was the MTV Saturday Night Concert. The account has been posting a YouTube link to a full concert from different bands every Saturday night and so far I’ve gotten to enjoy Billy Squier, Night Ranger, The Go-Go’s and a host of others.

In addition to those concerts, I’ve been watching all kinds of music documentaries. Some are excellent, some are forgettable but, all in all, it’s still music, right? So if you’re like me and your music itch isn’t getting scratched, I’ve weeded through a good many of the music documentaries to bring you then ten best that you would be doing yourself a favor to watch. One caveat before we get started: these documentaries are all currently on pay services but the good news is even if you don’t currently subscribe to any of the services I mention they all offer a 30-day trial subscription so you can still watch them all for free. Ready? Let’s go!

Streaming On Showtime

The Go-Go’s – This is hands-down the best of the documentaries I watched. My only complaint is that it didn’t last longer than it did. They have a great story and I don’t consider them a great “girl” band. They’re a great band, period. They just all happen to be girls.

Duran Duran: There’s Something You Should Know – I’m an enormous Duran Duran fan and the best part of this documentary is witnessing the friendship and comradery of the four original members that are still in the band after forty plus years. The was easily my second favorite of the documentaries.

Michael Jackson: This Is It – Shortly before his death in 2009, Michael Jackson was scheduled to perform an ASTOUNDING fifty live shows in London’s O2 arena as his “farewell” shows. Sadly, he died before they ever happened. The footage of this documentary was taken from the rehearsals of those shows. Judging by the footage in this movie, they would have been spectacular performances and it’s a shame they never happened.

Streaming On Netflix

20 Feet from Stardom – This one was a bit of a surprise. It’s billed as a documentary about backup singers but not in the way you would think. It mostly goes back to the 60’s and 70’s when young, black female singers were trying to make it in the music business only to find their modest success in the role of back-up or voice over. In a time when our society is striving to tell more black stories, this one is a terrific addition.

Woodstock: 3 Days That Defined A Generation – This iteration of the Woodstock documentaries is less about the music and more about the conception, planning and pulling off of most popular music event in history. It’s really quite interesting to hear from the people involved and even some of the artists.

The Show Must Go On: Queen + Adam Lambert – I’ve always been a huge Queen fan (especially of guitarist Brian May and his Instagram account during the pandemic. Go check it out.) and I’ve been an Adam Lambert fan since he was on American Idol. They’re story together, at least for Adam, is the stuff dreams are made of. Nobody but him could have taken up the mantle after Freddie Mercury died.

Streaming On Amazon Prime

Hired Gun An expose on the musicians who primarily make a living as session artists and live musicians in backing bands. It profiles some of the biggest names in the world of freelance players and features jam sessions with assorted hired guns. It’s both a story of dreams coming true and a cautionary tale at the same time.

Slash: Raised on The Sunset StripThis one was a surprise. I stumbled onto it really while looking for something else. His friends talking about him, the story of how GnR formed and his background in general make for great story telling.

The Van Halen Story: The Early Years For starters, this movie is not endorsed by the band so, sadly, it contains no actual Van Halen music. What you do get is an hours’ worth of great stories and pictures about one of the great rock bands, told by friends, ex-employees and ex-bandmates. It covers the band from the club days to their first world tour. One hidden gem in this one is the fact that it’s narrated by original MTV VJ, J.J. Jackson.

Suddenly Can’t Be Streamed

While perusing the documentaries on Showtime, I ran across If I Leave Here Tomorrow: A Film About Lynyrd Skynyrd. While I knew some of their music, I’ve never really known much about the band except that some of them died in a plane crash. This one was an incredibly entertaining watch. It covers the band from their beginnings, their success and rise to stardom, the fateful plan crash and the modern-day version of the band. Sadly, as I write this, it doesn’t seem to be available on Showtime anymore and I’m unable to find it streaming anywhere for free at the moment. However, if you’re able to watch it, watch it. It’s worth it.

If you can’t find it, you may want to check out Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash that is available to stream from Amazon.

Well, there you go. If you happen to give any of these a go hit me up on Twitter and let me know what you think!

About Eric Vardeman 114 Articles
80's lover. Screenwriter. Cohost of The Greatest Lists podcast. Christmas enthusiast. Tulsa Curling Club founder. Cherokee. Guitar player. Boomer Sooner. Curator of 80's playlists (https://open.spotify.com/user/127168733)

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