Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

What to stream: Go behind the music with these new documentaries

Cyndi Lauper attends her hand and footprint ceremony in front of the TCL Chinese Theater in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Lauper is the subject of the new Paramount+ documentary “Let the Canary Sing.”  (Getty Images)
By Katie Walsh Tribune News Service

There are a few new and notable music documentaries following the lives and careers of some of the most iconic American rock musicians of the 20th century that have debuted recently on streaming and are worth checking out.

The Cyndi Lauper documentary “Let the Canary Sing,” which debuted Tuesday on Paramount+, takes an in-depth look at the life and career of the talented Brooklyn songstress, as well as her lasting legacy as a pioneering feminist pop artist. The film follows a traditional biopic format, with interviews with Lauper and her closest family, friends and collaborators, but what makes it interesting is the granular examination of how she established her signature look and sound, and what makes it distinctive. There’s an extended sequence about the writing and arrangement of her iconic anthem “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” not just the unique sound of the song, and her voice, but the styling of the music video, and how she and her team managed to make it a hit thanks to professional wrestling of all things (Lou Albano played her dad in the video). Directed by Alison Ellwood, who also directed the 2020 documentary “The Go-Gos,” “Let the Canary Sing” is a rousing tribute to the singular force that is Cyndi Lauper. Stream it on Paramount+.

Over on Hulu, rock out with the four-part documentary miniseries “Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story,” which looks at the epic rise of the enduring hair metal band from New Jersey. Framed around rehearsals for a new tour, the doc follows Jon Bon Jovi (aka Jon Bongiovi) on the cusp of his 60th birthday, reflecting on the past. Each episode chronicles a different chapter in the Bon Jovi story, their meteoric rise to fame, tensions among the band, and reaching new generations of fans. The documentary series is directed by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Gotham Chopra. Stream all four parts on Hulu now.

Or, catch a wave with “The Beach Boys” streaming on Disney+. This documentary, directed by Frank Marshall and Thom Zimmy, features most of the members of the iconic surf rock band, who defined the fantasy of California life back in the 1960s. Scholars and famous fans including Janelle Monae and Lindsey Buckingham help to explicate the genius of the Beach Boys, who were a family band of three brothers, a cousin and a friend, singing about surfing and beach life – and going toe-to-toe with the lads from Liverpool, the Beatles. However, the documentary has been criticized for not fully exploring the famous rift between Mike Love and Brian Wilson, and dismissing some of Wilson’s more critically acclaimed experiments like “Pet Sounds” and “Smile.” Check it out for yourself on Disney+.

And for something more bite-sized, the YouTube channel Drumeo has a truly addictive series for music fans. They get famous drummers into the studio, play them a drumless track of a song they’ve never heard before, and then record what they come up with. Watch Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chili Peppers tear into a freestyle over a 30 Seconds to Mars track, or Megadeth’s Dirk Verbeuren tackle the Killers and Paramore. Once you start, it’s hard to stop, just watching incredibly talented people do what they do best. It’s spellbinding. Check it out on Drumeo’s YouTube channel.