It All Begins With a Song (2020)

I could go on and on all day long, uh, all week long, about the unsung musicians of yesteryear. I should know, I wrote two books about Jim Morrison’s doppelganger from 1974, an artist cast as The Phantom, who released an album now heralded as a heavy-metal classic: Phantom’s Divine Comedy: Part 1.

Over on my Medium page, I wax nostalgic about the careers of songwriter extraordinaire Russ Ballard, of pop smith Lane Caudell, of rockers Jim Gustafson, Neil Merryweather, and Kim Milford, of gospel’s Gene Townsel, of county’s Jessie Lee Turner, and of Detroit’s Jerry Zubal—each deserves a documentary film in their own right. But that’s never going to happen. And I am a writer first and everything else second, so I do what I can on my little digital puff of the cloud to preserve the lost chords of forgotten troubadours. (Shamless review plug: we touch on the unknown career of Lori Lieberman in our “Radio Week” review of Play Misty for Me.)

However, be the musician known or unknown, before they get into that studio, it begins at 3 AM at the kitchen table with a notepad and a guitar; it begins with that song written by a lone soul who, if they recorded their own music, they’d be bigger than Elvis or Steven Tyler of Aerosmith.

And this movie is about the unsung kitchen musicians who wrote the hits for those two artists—and so many, many more.

They’re the melodies we hum, the songs we sing in the shower and to our car radio by heart. They’re forever lodged in our psyches. They are the songs that make us laugh about a memory of good times. And make us cry as we remember the bad. Those days of love and of heartbreak live in the songs of others. And while we sing their songs, that songwriter who we associate with those moments of our lives, is unsung.

So, in this music document, the stars of pop, rock, and country take a backseat to give voice to the songwriter—the Nashville songwriter—a town that’s responsible for more hit songs than any other town in world.

You’ll be amazed at the hit after hit song rattled off in the trailer. And you’ll be amazed by this film directed by the Venezuelan born and raised, Chusy, an ex-advertising executive who successfully transitioned into the world of short film and feature documentaries. He expertly culled over 100 hours of interview with the Nashville-based songwriting-artists you know, including Garth Brooks, Luke Bryan, Kacey Musgraves, and Brad Paisley, and the songwriters you don’t know, including Jessi Alexander (“The Climb” by Miley Cyrus), Desmond Child (“Angel” by Aerosmith and “You Give Love a Bad Name” by Bon Jovi), Mac Davis (“A Little Less Conversation” and “In the Ghetto” by Elvis Presley), and Mikky Ekko and Claude Kelly (“Grenade” for Bruno Mars and “Circus” for Britney Spears).

It All Begins With a Song does for Nashville what Paul Justman’s Standing in the Shadow of Motown (2002) did for Detroit’s The Funk Brothers. It’s a film that needed to be done. It’s a film that’s a must watch for any musician or for any serious music lover who wants to know who’s responsible for half of those 3,000 songs in their iPod.

It All Begins With a Song made its streaming debut on March 3 courtesy of TriCoast Pictures on Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Vimeo on Demand, Vudu, and You Tube Movies.

Here’s the rest of the great films released under the Rock Salt Releasing/TriCoast Worldwide co-banner we’ve reviewed:

Agatha Christine: Spy Next Door
Blood Hunters: Rise of the Hybrids
Bombshells and Dollies
Case 347
Lone Star Deception
My Hindu Friend
The Soul Collector
Tombstone Rashomon

Disclaimer: We were provided a screener by the film’s P.R firm. That has no bearing on our review.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publishes on Medium.