Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation (a J!-ENT DVD Review)
October 22, 2013 by Dennis Amith
“Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation” is a wonderful, nostalgic look at American music history of the folk music scene that came from Greenwich Village in the 1960’s, but also a fascinating retrospective to hear from the music artists discuss their thoughts and perspective of the musical and political scene and other talents at that time. Recommended!
© 2012 Solomon’s Signature Productions. All rights reserved.
DVD TITLE: Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation
DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2012
DURATION: 92 Minutes
DVD INFORMATION: Color, 1:78:1, Stereo
COMPANY: Kino Lorber Inc.
RATED: NOT RATED
RELEASE DATE: November 12, 2013
Directed by Laura Archibald
Written by Laura Archibald, Rob Lindsay, Kevin Wallis
Produced by Laura Archibald, Nicolas Kleiman, Rob Lindsay, Kevin Wallis
Executive Producer: Joe Cecala
Cinematography by Pete Howell
Edited by Nicolas Kleiman, Rob Lindsay, Kevin Walls
Narrated by Susan Sarandon
Greenwich Village was the birthplace of the singer/songwriter and songs of love and relationships. Between 1961-1973, many musicians in The Village banded together to sing about the radical social upheaval of the time. Narrated by Academy Award Winner Susan Sarandon (Thelma & Louise, Broken City, Dead Man Walking), GREENWICH VILLAGE: MUSIC THAT DEFINED A GENERATION is a feature-length documentary about the Greenwich Village music scene and how it sparked everlasting political, social and cultural changes. For the first time, the greatest singer-songwriters, authors and performers from Greenwich Village reflect on how they collectively became the voice of a generation. Through poignant interviews, rare archival footage and new live performances, GREENWICH VILLAGE: MUSIC THAT DEFINED A GENERATION tells a story about community, courage and most importantly – music.
In the United States, all over the country, there are stories of locations where many artists are derived from.
But in the 1960’s, there were musicians who wanted to create music unlike contemporary music, music that was created to make a difference. These musicians lived in Greenwich Village.
For those not familiar with the village, the area is a residential neighborhood on the west side of Lower Manhattan in New York City known for its art and culture, the Village was the first to have a racially integrated night club in the late 30’s, in the 50’s, it was the location for the bohemian scene and attracting writers, poets, artists and Beatniks.
And in the 1960’s, the Village was known for its music scene, especially the development of folk music.
It was an area that brought The Mamas & the Papas together, it was an area that Bob Dylan came from, an area which influenced Peter, Paul and Mary (Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey and Mary Travers) but also notable talents such as Pete Seeger, Kris Kristofferson, Don McLean, Peter Yarrow, Arlo Guthrie, Lucy and Carly Simon, Tom Chapin, Judy Collins and more.
And what better to capture the music from Greenwich Village than by spotlighting the music of the ’60s thanks to a documentary by filmmaker Laura Archibald in “Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation”.
The documentary is broken down in chapters with interviews from various music luminaries who were in Greenwich Village making music at the time. The film is narrated by actress Susan Sarandon.
The chapters featured in “Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation” are:
- It Takes a Village – A chapter about Greenwich Village during the ’60s, featuring passages from Suze Rotolo’s “A Freewheelin’ Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties”.
- Folk Music – The music luminaries talk about separating from the previous generation and how they were inspired “Harry Smith’s Complete Anthology of America’s Folk Music”.
- The Day the Music Died…Almost? – How the 1960’s featured protest and rebellion and how Izzy Young was a leader. How the city banned music on Washington Square on Sundays and how the musicians felt it infringed of their rights.
- What About Bob? – Those who lived in the Greenwich Village talk about what they thought about Bob Dylan and his music at the time.
- Birth of the Singer-Songwriter – A segment that featured Joni Mitchell, Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton, Sylvia Tyson, Bob Dylan and many people at the time who were writing and expressing ideas while living in Greenwich Village.
- Drug of Choice – The innocence of the early ’60s and how coffee was the drug of choice and people would sit around and read.
- A Sociopolitical Movement – The mid-60’s and the marriage of folk and rock music and how it would lead to a huge audience. But how the Vietnam War and Civil Rights Movement would affect the music and a sociopolitical movement in Greenwich Village.
- Protest – The House Un-American Committee (HUAC) Meeting were pursuing those who wrote songs against the US government and blacklisting musicians and how many left the U.S. after being blacklisted.
- The Blacklist – How musicians were blacklisted by the HUAC and were not able to get jobs.
- Changed the World – How the social activism from the Greenwich Village made an impact in the country and around the world. And how Harry Chapin’s activism help jumpstart events that would precede major music events such as Live Aid and Band Aid.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation” is presented in 1:78:1 aspect ratio and in stereo.
The documentary features footage that is combination of recent digital footage (recent interviews) combined with archived footage . And as one can expect from a documentary with archived footage, picture quality varies for each footage but for the most part, the documentary looks good. The archived footage are in good shape and are easily watchable, no problems with film deterioration.
The stereo soundtrack featuring dialogue and music are also clear.
“Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation” comes with the following special features:
- Additional Interviews – (17:30) Additional interview footage not used in the final cut of the documentary.
- Performance of “Turn, Turn, Turn” – (2:06) Featuring musical artists from Greenwich Village to family of musicians performing together.
- Trailer – (2:26) Theatrical trailer for “Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation”.
For those who were fans or those who were inspired by the folk music of the 1960’s, the music that came from musicians and various talent from the Village will always be remembered.
Sure, there was an influx of music coming from California and other cities during the ’60s and many will point to the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin via Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane and many others. While rock music was being heard from California and Tennessee, in New York’s Greenwich Village, many musician have migrated to the area.
There was Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton, Tim Buckley, Judy Collins, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Lucy and Carly Simon, the Mamas and the Papas, Jose Feliciano, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Sylvia Tyson, Peter Yarrow, to name a few.
It’s amazing that there has not been a documentary made until now and this is what makes Laura Archibald’s documentary so special is for the fact that it tries to incorporate an era that is no more, but yet will forever be remembered for its musical activism but also the joy the music had brought to many lives.
While one will also want to check out the latest Suze Rotolo’s book “A Freewheelin’ Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties”, Archibald’s documentary goes into various segments of the 1960’s at Greenwich Village. From how the area attracted musicians at the time, to various political movements, how many flocked to the coffee shops to write songs or read books, how folk music became popular in the area and how a young Bob Dylan would become one of the faces of folk music leading up to the blacklist of music artists who sung against the U.S. government and policies and the lasting impression these music visionaries of the time had made an impact in the music culture of America.
I absolutely enjoyed this documentary. I’m not an erudite on folk music, let alone the music that game from the Village but for this documentary, Archibald was able to get talent from that era for interviews used in the documentary. Granted, you’re not going to see Bob Dylan (as he never gives interviews and if he does, it’s quite rare), but you will see many names such as Judy Collins, Lucy and Carly Simon, Phil Ochs, Jose Feliciano, Buffy Sainte-Marie to name a few. But I would imagine for a time that attracted so many artists, only so many can be featured in this documentary.
You also have narration from actress Susan Sarandon and well-researched archived footage and photos to go along with the documentary and give the viewers a chance to see the creativity that came from the Village nearly 50-years later.
The DVD is in very good quality and the footage used is well-selected and are not in bad shape, so everything is watchable and picture quality features a good balance of classic archived footage and recent interviews. Dialogue and music are crystal clear and understandable and for special features, you do get additional interviews and more.
Overall, “Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation” is a wonderful, nostalgic look at American music history of the folk music scene that came from Greenwich Village in the 1960’s, but also a fascinating retrospective to hear from the music artists discuss their thoughts and perspective of the scene and other talents at that time.
Laura Archibald’s “Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation” music documentary is recommended!
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