11 Music Documentaries to Stream Right Now

March 31, 2020
Posted in Article
March 31, 2020 Tumelo Moloi

The best music documentaries provide insight into an artist’s life and artistic process the way even the best album can’t. With the use of never-before-seen footage and exclusive interviews, these visuals offer a new look at our favorite artists. And with a bevy of entertainment and tech giants competing in the 21st century streaming wars, most of these docus are immediately available with just a few clicks.

On top of the growing accessibility to music documentaries, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is forcing everyone to practice social distancing. These precautionary measures have caused a 20% worldwide increase in film and TV streaming, even while music streaming has moderately suffered.

The convenience of at-home binging makes self-isolation a little more bearable, so we at HYPEBEAST have compiled a list of music documentaries available to stream anywhere you go, ranging from features that narrate the lives of the late Daniel Johnston and Amy Winehouse, to the stories of seminal albums like Nas’ Illmatic and Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine’s $3 billion USD partnership.

The Devil and Daniel Johnston

Where to watch: Amazon

Daniel Johnston was beloved by the both music and visual art circles, but he was also terrorized by his schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Director Jeff Feuerzeig explores how the late artist’s manic-depressive tendencies influenced his work, making The Devil and Daniel Johnston a solemn way to celebrate his uniqueness.

Amy

Where to watch: Netflix

The loss of Amy Winehouse in 2011 was a shock to the world, but Asif Kapadia’s award-winning documentary is a reminder of a brilliant artist we lost too soon. Amy starts at the very beginning of her career when Winehouse was just 14 years old, and with the use of never-before-seen footage and hundreds of interviews with her friends and family, shares the powerful yet tender story of a life and career that was sadly plagued by drugs and alcohol.

Oasis: Supersonic

Where to watch: Netflix

Liam and Noel Gallagher’s rocky relationship was a fixation of the media right from the explosion of OasisSupersonic takes a look at the band’s formative years and the height of their success in the ‘90s, exploring how a pair of brothers who made some of the best Britpop music could also detest each other to the point of nearly destroying their careers. Filmmakers Mat Whitecross, Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees narrate Oasis’ highs and lows, maybe even giving fans hope of a reunion after all these years.

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

Where to watch: Amazon

An authorized documentary about the great Kurt CobainMontage of Heck narrates the life of the Nirvana frontman and leaves almost no stone unturned. Executive produced by his daughter Frances Bean and directed by Brett Morgan, the film was described by his widow Courtney Love as a “healing experience.” The 145-minute docu dives deep into Cobain’s early years a troubled teen, all the way to the humble beginnings of Nirvana and his return to Seattle after being released from a hospital in Rome just a month before his suicide.

Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men

Where to watch: Amazon

The Wu-Tang Clan celebrated their 25th anniversary with a docuseries, Of Mics and Men. The series interviews the living members of the revered hip-hop group and several individuals affiliated with the clan about their success, their music and the brotherhood at the center of it all. Archival footage from 2004 that features the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard is also weaved between the interviews.

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese

Where to watch: Netflix

Two legends come together once again in the Netflix music documentary Rolling Thunder Revue, with Martin Scorsese covering Bob Dylan’s famed 1975 concert tour of the same name. The unique visual incorporates both fictional and non-fictional material, weaving together interviews of those involved in the tour and outtakes from the musician’s 1978 film, Renaldo and Clara. Its pseudo-documentary style makes it hard for audiences to identify which part is fictional and which isn’t, but it’s a well-known fact that Dylan’s nearly 60-year legacy is one that will never be forgotten.

Style Wars

Where to watch: YouTubeAmazon

Style Wars is arguably one of the most important documentaries about hip-hop. The 1983 film, helmed by Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant, examines graffiti’s connections to breakdancing and rap. With appearances by the likes of Crash, Zephyr, Frosty Freeze and music from The Sugarhill Gang and Grandmaster Flash, the documentary accurately captures the spirit of the ‘70s and ‘80s and went on to win the Grand Jury Prize: Documentary at the Sundance Film FestivalStyle Wars is also available on YouTube (at a slightly lower quality) if you don’t have an Amazon subscription.

Fade To Black

Where to watch: TIDAL

For years, JAY-Z’s 2004 documentary Fade To Black wasn’t available online. However, Hov recently decided to put it up on his streaming platform TIDAL, allowing us to watch the film that was meant to showcase his retirement from music. That obviously didn’t happen since the rapper ended up dropping five more albums, but the docu’s footage from what was supposed to be his final performance in Madison Square Garden and the insights into making The Black Album is still a treat.

Nas: Time Is Illmatic

Where to watch: Amazon

Illmatic is an album in a league of its own, and Nas celebrated its 20th anniversary with the feature-length documentary, Time Is Illmatic. The hour-long film features interviews with Nas, his family, and prominent figures like PharrellAlicia Keys and Pete Rock as they discuss both the album’s creation and impact.

The Defiant Ones

Where to watch: HBO

The Defiant Ones follow the success story of one of the most important deals in music and tech, with co-founders Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine narrating the beginning of their partnership and how that led to Apple buying Beats Electronics for a whopping $3 billion USD — the largest acquisition in Apple history. The four-part HBO series includes interviews with the pair plus appearances from the likes of Trent ReznorIce CubeKendrick Lamar and Eminem, and even goes all the way back to Dre and Iovine’s separate music careers.

Gentle & Soft: The Story of the Blue Jean Committee

Where to watch: Netflix

Gentle & Soft: The Story of the Blue Jean Committee sees comedians Bill Hader and Fred Armisen in a fictional soft rock band called The Blue Jean Committee. This two-episode docuseries is actually part of a mockumentary series created by the two stars alongside Seth Meyers and and Rhys Thomas, and takes inspiration from the rise of bands like Steely Dan and the Eagles. The whole thing is so authentic, however, that it’s easy to mistaken their music as songs you heard on the radio growing up — they even got Irving Azoff, the real manager of the Eagles, to appear in this season finale.

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