Rattle and Hum: A Lifelong Journey

Music documentaries are a great way to learn about a band or artist, but have you ever learned something more? Has one ever exposed you to more than the band and forced you to dig deeper? Rattle and Hum did that for me.

I was six years old when it came out and saw it for the first time when I was eight. I watched it at a friend’s house, and we watched it loud – over and over again.

Rattle and Hum is much more than a U2 documentary. Sure, the focus is the band, but it truly is about the journey. And not just their journey. It’s about a journey of exploration and discovery, a journey about learning more. I received a crash course in culture during this movie, and here’s what I came away with:

  • Charles Manson. Maybe the most famous serial killer of all time, and my first reference to it was in the opening song Helter Skelter. I had no idea such people existed or how and why they did the things they did. I lost a little innocence and gained some much needed cynicism.
  • Harlem. I’m a Nashville native and still haven’t made it further north than Maryland. This was my first experience with Harlem, which led to me learning about the Harlem Renaissance. I remember feeling a connection with those scenes. Maybe it was the poverty or the soul and passion, but something resonated with me. The church choir singing I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For is still one of my favorite parts.
  • Billie Holiday. Growing up with a parent in an 80s metal band, I wasn’t exposed to jazz. Angel of Harlem opened my eyes to jazz singers and African American musicians.
  • B.B. King. I wasn’t exposed to blues either. Recently, a friend jokingly said to me, “You don’t know anything about B.B. King.” I pshed and explained I knew about B.B. King – thanks to Rattle and Hum. The movie introduced me to the him, the blues, and the sound.
  • Graceland/Memphis. I’ve always loved Elvis, but I didn’t know what Graceland was or want to visit Memphis until I saw this movie. It’s also inspiring to see Larry sit on the bike, even though he wasn’t supposed to. Rebelling isn’t always a bad thing.
  • America. When you live it every day, you overlook the beauty around you. Taking a few moments and looking at it through a camera lens allows you to see it for what it is. Beneath the traffic, aholes, and pollution, we really do live in a pretty amazing place. Even in the 80s, America was a melting pot of culture.

Rattle and Hum taught me more history and culture in two hours than any history class ever could. The movie touched on people, cultures, and politics, and inspired me to learn more. I can still sing every word to every song. I still laugh and pause when it gets heavy. Remember, it’s not just about the music – it’s about what we take from it.

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