Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Story of Lovers Rock

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Nostalgic Documentary Celebrates Influential Black Brit Music Genre

Have you ever even heard of a smooth type of British music called Lovers Rock? Me either. But don’t let that stop you from checking out this alternately entertaining and educational documentary detailing the history of what was actually a very influential, if underappreciated, genre.
Directed by Barbados-born Brit Menelik Shabazz, The Story of Lovers Rock chronicles how the unique sound became the rage around London back in the Seventies. A blend of apolitical reggae and American-style R&B, it was created by the young offspring of Caribbean immigrants living in Brixton and other ghettos in England.
Signed by fledgling record companies, many of the performers soon found fame but without reaping any financial rewards, because they were routinely ripped-off by unscrupulous businessmen. (“Once you are a producer, you are a thief.”) I suppose this development was no surprise, given the long legacy of exploited black entertainers and the fact that these stars were so young, such as Louisa Mark, who had her first hit at the tender age of 14.
The victims’ tales of woe recounted here range from an admission that “I never saw a royalty statement” to overwhelming regret about being paid only a flat 6½ pounds for tunes that climbed the charts. Yet, to this day, they all still have loyal followings not only in Great Britain, but Japan, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Australia and New Zealand.
Perhaps the movie’s most enlightening and telling history lesson lies in its delineating the enormous impact of Lovers Rock on the next generation of white British musicians. For groups from The Police to Boy George’s Culture Club to UB40 would go on to enjoy phenomenal success by incorporating a suspiciously-similar combination of reggae and soul into their ostensibly-derivative arrangements.
You can add The Story of Lovers Rock to the short list of must-see, politically-tinged documentaries which shed light on the cultural roots of a lesser-known sound, in much the same way that instant screen classics like Calypso Dreams and Buena Vista Social Club have done for Trinidad and Cuba, respectively. Three cheers to the talented Menelik Shabazz for making such a delightful, informative and thought-provoking cinematic contribution for the ages!

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 96 Minutes
Distributor: ArtMattan Productions

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