Take Me to the River, a feature film celebrating the inter-generational and inter-racial musical influence of Memphis in the face of discrimination and segregation, had its world premiere on Saturday (March 15) at SXSW.
The film brings multiple generations of award-winning Memphis and Mississippi Delta musicians together, following them through the creative process of recording a historic new album, to re-imagine the utopia of racial, gender and generational collaboration of Memphis in its heyday.
Musicians featured include Terrence Howard, William Bell, Snoop Dog, Mavis Staples, Otis Clay, Lil P-Nut, Charlie Musselwhite, Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, Yo Gotti, Bobby Rush, Frayser Boy and The North Mississippi All-Stars.
To tell the story of the Memphis music scene, the film makers invited icons such as guitar legend Hubert Sumlin and singer Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland to record alongside contemporary rappers ranging from Snoop Dogg to the 11-year-old Lil P-Nut.
The film marks the directorial debut for Martin Shore, a Grammy nominated music and film producer. who began his entertainment career as a professional musician, touring with the likes of Bo Diddley, Clarence Clemons, and many others.
Taking its inspiration from the documentary, there was also a Saturday afternoon all-star Take Me to the River revue at Butler Park as part of SXSW’s free concert series.
The concert featured non-Memphian Snoop Dogg (who duetted with William Bell on ‘the 1968 hit ‘I Forgot To Be Your Lover’), along with older soul artists Otis Clay (who sang with Hi Records producer Willie Mitchell’s great-grandson on ‘Tryin’ to Live My Life Without You’), Booker T. Jones’ (‘Green Onions’), harmonica great Charlie Musselwhite (playing with the North Mississippi Allstars’ Luther Dickinson). Syl Johnson sang the title song of the movie which was a hit for him back in 1975 (and a hit for its co-writer Al Green a year earlier).