A New Look At Musical Heritage

Aug 8, 2017

You never know what you may discover – and learn – when you set off on a road trip, even if it’s just one state over. 

Destination: The Traverse City Film Festival.
Mission: Films that may not make it commercially.

Michael Moore, the festival’s founder, puts it this way: “We need movies that seek to enrich the human spirit … not the bottom line.”

In the documentary “Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World,” Buffy Sainte-Marie tells us there’s medicine in the arts. She’s one of the many Native American musicians profiled in this extraordinary film.

The title, “Rumble,” comes from Link Wray’s 1958 hit instrumental that influenced musicians from Taj Mahal to Pete Townshend to Iggy Pop. Wray was a Shawnee.

Filmmaker Catherine Bainbridge introduced me to musicians I was unaware of and re-introduced me to some I had no idea were Native American: Jimi Hendrix (part Cherokee), Robbie Robertson of The Band (half Mohawk), jazz singer Mildred Bailey (half Coeur d’Alene), and Delta blues great Charley Patton (part Cherokee).

In the 103 minutes I was in front of the screen, I got a deeper insight into Native American culture than in all my school years. Why didn’t I already know about the heritage of some of my favorite musicians and their profound influence on American music? One reason may stem from a saying I heard in the film: “Be proud you’re an Indian, but be careful who you tell.”

Of all of America’s riches, to me our music makers stand front and center, and I want to know more about the lineage of their outstanding talent.

I’m Paula Garrett, and that’s my perspective.