Happy February, American Masters fans!
This month, American Masters is proud to present documentaries about Fats Domino and Maya Angelou in celebration of Black History Month and to mark Itzhak’s nomination for Best Music Film at the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards, which air Sunday, February 10.
Enjoy these films, now available to stream for a limited time, via pbs.org/americanmasters and PBS apps.
For a limited time: 2/5/2019 – 2/18/2019
Distinctly referred to as “a redwood tree, with deep roots in American culture,” Dr. Maya Angelou (April 4, 1928-May 28, 2014) led a prolific life. As a singer, dancer, activist, poet and writer, she inspired generations with lyrical modern African-American thought that pushed boundaries. Best known for her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Random House), she gave people the freedom to think about their history in a way they never had before.
With unprecedented access, filmmakers Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack trace Dr. Angelou’s incredible journey, shedding light on the untold aspects of her life through never-before-seen footage, rare archival photographs and videos and her own words. From her upbringing in the Depression-era South and her early performing career (1957’s Miss Calypso album and Calypso Heat Wave film, Jean Genet’s 1961 play The Blacks) to her work with Malcolm X in Ghana and her many writing successes, including her inaugural poem for President Bill Clinton, American Masters – Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise reveals hidden facets of her life during some of America’s most defining moments. The film also features exclusive interviews with Dr. Angelou, her friends and family, including Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Common, Alfre Woodard, Cicely Tyson, Quincy Jones, Hillary Clinton, Louis Gossett, Jr., John Singleton, Diahann Carroll, Valerie Simpson, Random House editor Bob Loomis and Dr. Angelou’s son, Guy Johnson.
From Schubert to Strauss, Bach to Brahms, Mozart to…Billy Joel, Itzhak Perlman’s violin playing transcends mere performance to evoke the celebrations and struggles of real life. Director Alison Chernick’s (The Jeff Koons Show, Matthew Barney: No Restraint) new documentary American Masters: Itzhak provides an intimate, cinéma vérité look at the remarkable life and career of this musician, widely considered the world’s greatest violinist.
The film looks beyond the 16-time Grammy-winning musician to see the polio survivor whose parents emigrated from Poland to Israel, and the young man who struggled to be taken seriously as a music student when schools saw only his disability. In the film, Perlman’s life story unfolds through conversations with fellow musicians and friends, including Billy Joel, Alan Alda, pianist Martha Argerich, cellist Mischa Maisky and his wife of 50 years, Toby. The Perlmans dedicate their lives to their large Jewish family in New York City, share the love for music and continue to support young musicians.
American Masters: Itzhak is a portrait of musical virtuosity that explores themes of Jewish identity, Jewish history, humor and love.
Fats Domino and The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll traces how Fats Domino’s brand of New Orleans rhythm and blues morphed into rock ‘n’ roll, appealing to black and white audiences alike.
Fats Domino was one of the most popular rockers of the 1950s and early 60s. His achievements and record sales during that time were rivaled only by Elvis Presley. With his boogie-woogie piano playing rooted in blues, rhythm and blues, and jazz, he became one of the inventors, along with Presley, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard of a revolutionary genre of music, rock ‘n’ roll.