Friday, June 15, 2007

The Godfather of Disco



Edit: official site URL corrected (6/15/07)

The buzz has really started to build (see some of my fellow bloggers) on this new doc by Gene Graham on co-founder of legendary disco independent West End Records, philanthropist, Paradise Garage backer and all-around disco pioneer, Mel Cheren.. In more recent years, the publishing of his autobiography "Keep On Dancin': My Life And The Paradise Garage," the relaunching of West End as an active label and his ongoing philanthropic efforts have done a great deal to solidify his legacy and contributions to disco and beyond.. Although I haven't actually posted any West End material yet, I'm a big fan of their output. Being one of the few disco independents still at it today; out of respect for them, so far I've taken their personal appeals for listeners not to file-share to heart, and besides, they offer much of their classic and current catalogue as digital downloads on their site anyway. So needless to say, in light of all that, I've been a little hesitant to post any of their material on here.

As a child, one of my earliest and fondest disco memories was dancing my lil' butt off to Karen Young's "Hot Shot" and trying (badly) to imitate those explosive, kick-ass ad-libs of hers.. I absolutely couldn't get enough of that song! Later on, I'd become familiar with much more of their excellent output, especially through their Larry Levan releases: "Classic West End Records Remixes" (1999, West End) and "Live At The Paradise Garage" (2000, West End/Strut). Those two sets in particular, were and still are very special to me, having played a huge part in my serious introduction to disco.. Perhaps one of these days I'll do a much more in-depth appreciation post about West End. As far as the documentary itself goes, here's an excerpt from one of the press releases out there:
The Godfather of Disco is a feature-length documentary based on Mel Cheren's powerful autobiography, My Life and the Paradise Garage: Keep On Dancin'.

Through a series of interviews with a who's who of the dance music community, The Godfather of Disco (G.O.D.) follows the arc of Mel's life to examine the early 70s musical and cultural currents that gave birth to disco; West End Records' contribution to that scene; and the rise of the Paradise Garage.

From that cultural heyday, the film then charts the onslaught of HIV/AIDS, its impact on New York City, and Mel's heroic efforts in the face of an epidemic through his work for Gay Men's Health Crisis and 24hrs for Life/LIFEbeat.

Mel has been there, done that, and lived to tell the tale. And, rest assured, he still does it all today. The Godfather of Disco makes a compelling case for how one's man's musical vision and AIDS activism helped push gay sensibilities into the greater culture--and how our world is better for it.

Pioneer. Activist. Survivor. Mel Cheren is The Godfather of Disco.
I'm not sure if this'll come up here to Canada anytime soon (or anywhere near me, for that matter), but so far it seems to have gotten some high praise from audiences and critics alike since it's premiere at the 2007 Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival, where Gene Graham won the Emerging Filmmakers Award and more recently at NewFest, the New York LGBT Film Festival.. Currently making the rounds on the festival circuit, the doc includes interviews from figures like Vince Montana, Jr.; Louie Vega, Louis Benedetti, Barbara Tucker, Kevin Hedge, Ultra Naté, Randy Jones and Junior Vasquez, just to name-drop a few of them..

Anyway, this is definitely one documentary that I've got to see sometime.. Hopefully "Godfather of Disco" will be making it to a festival near you. Either way, even if it doesn't, there should be a DVD release to follow..

In the mean time, check out the trailer below for a little preview:


Godfather of Disco Trailer
Uploaded by pepsounds

If you still want to see more, check out the official website www.thegodfatherofdiscodoc.com (link corrected) for further video previews, press reviews and screening information..

For further info on Mel Cheren, check out his bio at the West End Records website..

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
DEEP CUTS (APRIL 18, 2007)

LINKS:
NEWSWIRE: "GODFATHER OF DISCO" PRESS-RELEASE
SFWEEKLY.COM: LIFE AFTER DARK - MEL CHEREN'S ETERNAL DANCEFLOOR (BY TAMARA PALMER) (WEDNESDAY JUNE 13, 2007)
GODFATHER OF DISCO @ FRAMELINE31 (SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL LGBT FILM FESTIVAL)
GODFATHER OF DISCO OFFICIAL SITE
WEST END RECORDS/MEL CHEREN INTERVIEW @ DISCO-DISCO.COM
MEL CHEREN INTERVIEW @ UNDAGROUND ARCHIVES
WEST END RECORDS
NEWFEST 2007 BLOG: FILMMAKER INTERVIEWS - GENE GRAHAM
GENE GRAHAM ONLINE

CATEGORIES: DISCO NEWS, VISUAL DISCO

13 comments:

sandy said...

Hope the film comes to Sydney soon! (Love your blog.)

M.E. Grant said...

The web link doesn't connect to an active site. That can't be a good sign!

Tommy said...

Hey Sandy, thanks! :) Hope so too!

M.E. Grant.. Sorry about that.. aaah!. I just corrected the links to the official site.. I forgot "the" at the beginning of the URL.. I must have been half asleep when I put up those links (and didn't check them)..

DungeonDJ said...

Well, even if it doesn't come to a local theater, I'm hoping to buy the DVD which, most likely, will eventually be offered for sale from the West End site or Amazon.Com. I have a lot of stuff from West End Records but, have refrained from posting most of it as a courtesy to the label. I still purchase from them.

M.E. Grant said...

This documentary not only interests me because of the music and legacy, but an interview of Tanaa Gardner at Discomusic.com about royalties she never received. Trouble in paradise?

Tommy said...

Hey DungeonDJ.. I'll most likely end up buying the DVD too. I'm hoping there will be some nice extras on there too.. I also hope they get some more Paradise Garage T-shirts up in their shop. I've been wanting one for a while now..

Hey M.E. Grant.. Yeah, I read that interview too.. I don't know what else to say, aside from whatever went down there, it's really too bad; especially considering how closely tied her records are with the label's legacy. I remember reading several years back, how they were going to put out a new album on her with all her classics and a bunch of new stuff.. I guess her comments partly explain why none of that ever materialized..

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
M.E. Grant said...

Comments in book form? Alas, my blog isn't popular enough for this treatment!

Tommy said...

lol.. I should have deleted that one much earlier..

Anonymous said...

I have looked all over goggle to find this too buy does anyone know if t is available on DVD yet! Many thanks.

toddmichael said...

Probably a fool's errand, given it's 2013 and still I find nothing with "The Google," but figured I'd try here anyway: does anyone know if/where I can get this DVD? Mel was such an important figure to the music & scene that has meant so much to me and I really want to educate myself further via this movie. Appreciate any assistance you can provide.

Tommy said...

toddmichael, 5-6 years later and this documentary still hasn't been officially released on DVD, as far as I know. Digital copies are floating around on the internet though.. So it is definitely out there, regardless.

Tommy said...

someone recently posted it on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KuBGPj-klT8

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