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JIMMY CARTER ROCK & ROLL PRESIDENT: CINEMA PARADISO
When Jimmy Carter was just a kid in south Georgia, he loved gospel music so much that he didn’t need the hymn book to sing along. As it turned out, this lifelong passion for music gave him an unexpected edge as a presidential candidate: through folk, soul, jazz, and rock ‘n’ roll, Carter tapped into a force that transcended racial and generational divides, and often party lines. And after the disillusionment of the Watergate era, the musicians sensed that Carter wasn’t faking it; the likes of Bob Dylan, the Allman Brothers, and Willie Nelson even forged friendships.
Part-rockumentary, part-presidential portrait, Jimmy Carter: Rock ‘n’ Roll President combines rare archival footage with era-defining live performances: Aretha Franklin, Jimmy Buffett, Paul Simon, Dizzy Gillespie, and Herbie Hancock only scratch the surface. Mary Wharton traces how Carter’s genuine approachability became key to his political appeal, and allowed him to connect with voters who may only have known him as a small-town peanut farmer. But even more urgently, it shows us the unifying potential of a leader who believed, in a twist on Dylan’s words, that America could get busy being born, even as it seemed busy dying. — Loren Hammonds
If it hadn’t been for a bottle of scotch and a late-night visit from musician Greg Allman, Jimmy Carter might never have been elected the 39th President of the United States. This fascinating documentary charts the mostly forgotten story of how Carter, a lover of all types of music, forged a tight bond with musicians Willie Nelson, the Allman Brothers, Bob Dylan and others. Low on campaign funds and lacking in name recognition, Carter relied on support from these artists to give him a crucial boost in the Democratic primaries. Once Carter was elected, the musicians became frequent guests in the White House. Director Mary Wharton assembles a star cast including Trisha Yearwood, Garth Brooks, Nelson, Dylan and Bono and fills the soundtrack with Southern rock, gospel, jazz, and classical.