Documentary about the life of blues legend Buddy Guy premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival


“Funny thing about the blues: You play them because you have them. But if you play it, you lose it. ”The words of Buddy guy in his documentary, Blues Chase The Blues Away, perfectly describes how the power of music is perhaps the most transformative expression and self-therapy for the black man and woman in America.

The sound of the blues, which emerged from its gospel roots in the cotton fields of American slavery, is a foundation for almost all varieties of popular music of the 20th and 21st centuries – from rock & roll to jazz to R&B. Lots of the rousing guitar licks you’ve heard of Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Hazel, Ernie Isley as well as slash, Lenny Kravitz and others are more likely to be attributed to Guy’s influence.

(Photo credit: Tribeca Film Festival)

It took three directors – Devin Amar, Charles Todd, and Matt Mitchener – to cover 84 years of the life of this legendary musician. However, they give Guy the space to tell his own story. From picking cotton as the son of tenant parents in Lettsworth, Louisiana, to the clubs of Chicago, Illinois, to sidemaning some of the biggest names in the blues, to being an inspirational agent to the most famous rock and rock acts to ever come from Britain.

The opening is as divine as it is humble. While standing alone in a field in Louisiana, we learn of Guy’s most important musical inspirations as a child; the birds and John Lee Hooker. Knowing that a man with a fiery stage presence and burning hoes was first influenced by nature and then the guttural songs of Hooker makes perfect sense.

The film is beautifully edited, marbled interview material, oil paintings, and old-fashioned analog film rolls from the early 20th century. It subtly tells the viewer how much time and changes Guy has witnessed.

But a recurring theme in the film is that Guy was a humble man; a man more interested in watching and listening to his heroes like Willie Dixon, BB King and Lightning Hopkins than joining them.

What got Guy on the road to success was desperation. He explains how he was once fired from a blues gig in Baton Rouge for being too scared to sing in front of more than four people but was eventually forced to overcome his fear by literally going to the 1957 for his dinner Chicago 708 Club sang.

After stranded in the city, he fled with no job and no money, his guitar playing and singing caught the legend’s attention Muddy water who made him a salami sandwich that night and got him on his way as a professional blues man.

Guy built his reputation in the Chicago clubs by simply standing up. He differed from his peers and mentors, who were used to sitting on chairs and stools, but stood out in that he stood up and played his solos with ruthless devotion.

Buddy Guy Tribeca
(Credit: Screenshot / Tribeca Film Festival)

He soon started playing pages for records on acts like Dixon and Junior Wells while during the day he drove a tow truck but was forced to rule in his fiery game of Chess Records, even though he knew how his heroes played but knew what was inside of him. “I could play her style,” said Guy. “I could fly to the moon. But I could also fly to Mars. “

“You have to be a badass if you come up with something that people are still trying to copy decades later,” said Gary clark jr, talks about Guy’s innovative style of string bending on stage. Guy had the ability to extract multiple notes from a single string while pushing the feedback to its absolute limits.

One of the most eye-opening and yet most peculiar revelations of Blues Chase The Blues Away captures the irony of Guy’s influence. His heavy, kinetic blues licks didn’t make it to the States, but after vacationing in England in 1965, he discovered that British guitar stars are waiting – Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page among them – everyone had listened to him and became superstars by following his example.

When they hit hits in America, they couldn’t believe that pop music fans in the States didn’t know who Guy was when they had him all along.

Commentators on the documentary compare Guy’s guitar playing skills to the unforgiving violence of a natural disaster. Carlos Santana compared it to “a tornado or a hurricane” while John Mayer called the sound of his guitar behind the stage a “Sonic Tsunami”.

The narrative of the film is held together by a video motif of testimonials, “The Blues According to …” followed by words from players like Hopkins, Dixon, Waters to Clapton, Clark and Mayer about what the blues meant to them. Each of their interpretations was different, and yet they were all true.

In addition, it expertly set the tone for what will come on Guy’s journey. Decades of touring overseas with people like that Grateful dead, championed by The Rolling Stones and Stevie Ray Vaughn and then won the first of these nine Grammys in 1991!

The story culminates in his appearance at a blues tribute special at the White House with President Barack Obama. Blues chases away the blues is an amazing rendering of music originals like Guy that gives us the chance to honor him while we still have him and do what he did: honor those he admired.

And the best part about it? He has to tell the story himself.

Blues Chase The Blues Away can be streamed on Tribeca until June 23rd.

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