Buddy Guy: The Blues Chase the Blues Away @ Pan African Film Festival

I am embarrassed to say that going into this enlightening documentary I knew precious little about blues guitarist Buddy Guy. A great oversight on my part as this man was and is one of the biggest artists in the history of blues and someone who has influenced generations of musicians like Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, Gary Clark Jr, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and John Mayer. All those accomplished musicians participate in Devin Chanda (Kygo: Live at the Hollywood Bowl, On the Record: Pink), Charles Todd (Behind Celine Dion’s Courage, Romeo Santos: King of Bachata) and Matt Mitchener’s (Pentatonix: On My Way Home, Love. Blood. Kryptonite) documentary about one of the best guitar players ever.

Mitchener, Todd and Chanda are three very experienced directors who have focused largely on music. They have worked together before and besides having directed feature-length and short documentaries they have also worked on (either together or solo) videos by the likes of Rihanna, Jay Z, Mika, and Sofi Tukker. All this to say that these three guys know how to tell a musical tale and bring it to the screen. Here their subject is Buddy Guy, a man who should be more recognized in music history.

This 2021 documentary covers the time in Buddy Guy’s life from the time when he was working as a sharecropper in Louisiana in the 1940s, how he fell in love with music, especially the blues, learned to play guitar, struggled to make a career in music, and to how he became one of the world’s most respected guitarists.

Buddy Guy performing at the Modern Chicago Blues Styles show at University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, June 1, 1966.

After Buddy Guy heard “Boogie Chillun” by John Lee Hooker, he was hooked. Blues became the center of his life. So obsessed that, even though he did not think he was a good guitar player, he moved to Chicago in 1957 to immerse himself in the Chicago Blues. There he began to play in small clubs, record songs on 45s and play with the likes of Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and Otis Rush.

While off stage, Buddy is rather calm, on stage it is like he is possessed by a demon. That demon is the blues. As much as he became known for his skill with a guitar, Buddy also became known for his passion, energy and wild persona during his shows.

Now 84, the interviews with the living legend are very revealing – about the man, his music and career. So many stories! He has had quite a career! Between his stories and the interviews with Clapton, Mayer, Carlos Santana, and Gary Clark Jr, you really get a picture of how important this man is to music.

It is important that younger music fans watch a documentary like this to understand where music has come from and why it sounds the way it does. How important blues music is, despite the fact that it is certainly in the background today. Also, important to get the stories out of Buddy Guy while he is still with us – the last of the Chicago Blues greats.

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