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If your as excited by the stories of your favorite songs as the songs themselves, music documentaries can be a great way to feel even closer to the music you love. Even documentaries about artists you’re not particularly fond of can make for some amazing stories.
Have you already run through all the interesting music documentaries on your streaming service(s) of choice? Or are you just looking for something new? No matter what, there are plenty of great options that won’t cost you a dime.
1. Muscle Shoals
Is this documentary about Muscle Shoals, the town in Alabama, or is it about Muscle Shoals Sound Studio? Is it about Rick Hall, the “Father of Muscle Shoals Music,” or is about his FAME Studios? The answer to all of them is “yes,” and that’s part of what makes it a great documentary.
2. The US vs. John Lennon
No, this isn’t really about the Beatles, nor is it really about John Lennon the musician. Instead it’s about his political activism following the Beatles. That said, Lennon’s music fills the soundtrack, which alone makes it worth seeing.
3. Nas: Time Is Illmatic
One of the unfortunate facts of hip hop documentaries is that too large a number of them are about people who are no longer around. Fortunately, this isn’t one of them. Nas: Time is Illmatic follows the rapper’s early days leading up to his influential debut album.
4. Festival Express
This film follows The Grateful Dead, The Band, Janis Joplin, and more on a Canadian train tour. While the highlights are the interspersed performances, this is also as close to seeing what touring with these musicians would be like, and as close to it as many viewers would ever want to get.
5. Notorious B.I.G.: Bigger Than Life
As mentioned above, this is one of those hip hop documentaries that is a bummer to watch because Christopher Wallace, aka. Notorious B.I.G. is no longer with us. None of the rapper’s music is included, which is unfortunate, but there are plenty of interviews and stories from those who knew him.
6. Tupac Shakur: Before I Wake
Another documentary that won’t exactly cheer you up, Before I Wake tells the story of Tupac Shakur’s final days. Despite the fact that this chronicles the rapper’s death, there is some studio footage of Shakur at work as well as interviews with Eazy E, Jesse Jackson, and others.
7. Led Zeppelin: Dazed and Confused
This isn’t the definitive Led Zeppelin documentary. It’s unauthorized and features no interviews or commentary from the band, but whether you’re a hardcore fan or curiously investigating the band, you’re bound to encounter some new information.
Without the Roland TR-808 drum machine, electronic as we know it would probably still exist, but with a wildly different sound signature. This documentary tells the story of this iconic piece of hardware, as well as its impact on not just dance music, but hip hop, pop, and rock music as well.
9. NWA & Eazy-E: Kings of Compton
Yes, this film was released to capitalize on the release of Straight Outta Compton. That said, it’s actually got decent reviews. If you’re not familiar with the subject matter, it’s a decent starting place, and more knowledgeable fans may still be able to glean some new details.
10. Rush: 2112 and Moving Pictures (Classic Albums)
With the recent passing of drummer Neil Peart, you may be looking to either revisit come classic Rush albums or even look into them for the first time. As the name implies, this installment of the Classic Albums series looks at the production of one of the group’s most ambitious recordings, 2112, as well as one of its best-loved in Moving Pictures.
If you enjoy this one, it’s worth pointing out that there are several episodes of the Classic Albums series on Pluto TV, another free streaming service. Looking for more free streaming? Check out our list of geeky TV shows you can stream for free.