The 16 Best Music Documentaries of 2022 | Features | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

The 16 Best Music Documentaries of 2022 

Between the different streaming services, film festivals, and all other platforms, there are seemingly more documentaries released these days than ever before. And a great deal of them are about music. Here are the 16 best of the year: 


Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues 

Director Sacha Jenkins expertly explores the life and legacy of Louis Armstrong ― not just Satchmo’s music, but also his cultural importance. It makes fine use of personal diaries, and unearths many long-forgotten controversies. And it makes Armstrong’s legacy easily accessible to younger generations. 

Now streaming on Apple TV+.

This is GWAR 

A hugely entertaining look at GWAR, the punk/metal band that wore crazy monster costumes on stage, shocked audiences with their antics, and never got much MTV play outside of Beavis & Butt-head, mostly because of their propensity for songs like “Fishfuck.” It’s a surprisingly poignant story, especially how the group carried on after the death of frontman Dave Brockie. 

Now streaming on Shudder.

The Day the Music Died: The Story of Don McLean’s American Pie 

This film, directed by Mark Moormann, explores McLean’s 1971 hit “American Pie” from every angle: From the story of Buddy Holly, to what’s going on today at the crash site in Iowa, to biographical stuff about McLean until, finally, the singer sits down and explains what the song is really about. Whether he’s telling the truth remains a matter of future discussion. 

Now streaming on Paramount+.

The Return of Tanya Tucker Featuring Brandi Carlile 

Tanya Tucker was one of the biggest country stars of the ’70s and ’80s, but she had all but dropped out of sight by 2018 when contemporary star Brandi Carlile asked to produce an album with her. The result was Tucker’s Grammy-winning album, While I’m Livin’, and this beautiful documentary, directed by Kathlyn Horan

Not streaming yet. 

Dusty & Stones 

This one from DOC NYC tells the story of a pair of cousins from Swaziland, who play American-style country music and take a tour of the American South to do so. Totally unexpected, but absolutely worth watching. 

Not streaming yet. 

We Are the Thousand 

I’m cheating here because I included it in my 2021 list, but this is technically a 2022 release. It’s about the Rockin’1,000, a group of people who gather in a field in Italy and play a rock cover, and their eventual quest to meet the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl. What a great celebration of musical joy. 

Now streaming for VOD rental. 

If These Walls Could Sing 

Directed by Paul McCartney’s daughter Mary McCartney, this documentary tells the story of Abbey Road Studios, through many of the artists who made historical music there. It’s a very fun rampage through history, with everyone from Paul to Elton John to Pink Floyd weighing in. That said, I bet the filmmakers really really wished they hadn’t included Kanye West in the film’s climax. 

Now streaming on Apple TV+.

Idina Menzel: Which Way to the Stage? 

Idina Menzel is a legend in the world of musical theater, having originated roles in Rent and Wicked, while also voicing Elsa in Frozen. But as demonstrated by this documentary that’s now on Disney+, there’s a lot more to her than that. She got her start singing at Bar Mitzvahs, had a brief run at pop stardom, and her mainstream success led her, in 2018, on the road to her dream gig at Madison Square Garden. 

Now streaming on Disney+.

Immediate Family 

Back in 2008,  Denny Tedesco made a fine documentary, The Wrecking Crew, about the group of 1960s session musicians that played on a long list of classic albums, which included his father. Now, Tedesco is back with Immediate Family, a look at another group of unheralded background musicians. This one debuted at DOC NYC and look for it in 2023. 

Not available to stream yet. 

The Sound of 007 

A documentary that’s just what it sounds like: A look at the scores and theme songs of the different James Bond movies, over the 60 years of the EON Productions series. Rather than a rushed-off add-on to Amazon’s picking up of the Bond streaming rights, it’s a smart look at where all that great music came from. 

Now streaming on Amazon Prime Video. 

Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song 

An examination of the strange life of Cohen’s most famous tune, one that’s been covered by a long list of luminaries. Directed by Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine, the film sometimes takes its eye off the ball to become a more generalized documentary about Cohen, but as long as it keeps the focus on the song, it’s outstanding. Even though it can’t quite admit the truth, which is that Jeff Buckley’s version is much better. 

Now available for VOD rental. 

Nothing Compares 

Kathryn Ferguson‘s documentary is about the life and career of Sinead O’Connor, one of the most inscrutable stars of the 1990s. And like many revisionist projects about famous women of that decade, it ultimately concludes that she got a raw deal. Even if, due to legal entanglements with Prince’s estate, the film omits the “Nothing Compares to You” song, it’s still a fine examination of this one-of-a-kind artist.

Now streaming on Showtime.

Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story 

Directed by Frank Marshall and Ryan Suffern, it’s a history of the New Orleans Jazz Festival, and in particular how the tradition was disrupted by Hurricane Katrina; there’s a particular focus on the 2019 edition. It ends with one of the best live performances on this list- Bruce Springsteen, singing “My City of Ruins,” at the first post-Katrina Jazz Fest.

Now available for VOD rental. 

Moonage Daydream 

If this movie had been done right, it would be #1 on this list. Filmmaker Brett Morgen got to make an authorized documentary about the life of David Bowie, with permission from the late superstar’s family and the use of all the important footage. But the film doesn’t really have anything to say about Bowie, and while it’s great to see the concert footage, a lot of it looks weird, like it’s been color-corrected to hell. 

Now available for VOD rental.

Royalty Free: The Music of Kevin Macleod

Not so much about a famous musician, but a rather unheralded one: The guy who is the most prolific composer of royalty-free music. You’ve heard Macleod’s stuff in movies, video games, in the background of YouTube clips, and even in this movie. Directed by Ryan Camarda, the movie does a great job exploring Macleod as a character, and also goes into his controversies, as some composers aren’t so thrilled about competing with the guy who does it for free. 

Now streaming on Kanopy. 


The sad, wistful story of Chattanooga’s Songbirds Guitar Museum, and its pandemic-related closure in 2020. The museum held an amazing collection of classic guitars, and the film tells the story of both the museum itself and some fascinating guitar history. Director Dagan W. Beckett‘s film recalls 2018’s Carmine Street Guitars, as a documentary about a specific, guitar-centric place.

Now available for VOD rental.

Damaged City Festival 2019 | Photos | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

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