A documentary by Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana. Rating unavailable
“There’s a real conqueror’s vibe to that song,” states Rolling Stone’s David Fricke, about Redbone’s less-fluffy-than-you-think 1973 hit, “Come and Get Your Love”. It’s one of the most purely ecstatic moments in an outstanding doc that’s long on excitement—the thrill-o-meter is already in the red with an early sequence on Shawnee guitar god Link Wray and the insurgent 1958 instrumental of the title—while remaining focused on the more vital job of correcting the record on American music history.
Canadian director Catherine Bainbridge (working here with Alfonso Maiorana) has spent most of her career on Indigenous matters, but Rumble is the kind of film that should body-shock the mainstream, and not soon enough. As every one of her numerous interview subjects reminds us, from Steve Van Zandt to George Clinton to Pura Fé and Wayne Kramer, there’s a hard political reality behind the incomplete official story.
“It was genocide and they wanted to erase every cultural perception of reality that we had,” says Santee-Dakota poet-musician-activist John Trudell, who collaborated with the dizzyingly brilliant Comanche-Kiowa guitarist Jesse Ed Davis in the ’80s.
Among others, Davis’s own rocky story is covered here, and it’s his generation and peers, including Cherokee-blood Jimi Hendrix, who first wore their heritage with pride. (Those feathers and hats weren’t just frivolous psychedelic accessories.)
Before that, as White Panther Party trickster John Sinclair sardonically notes, “The Indians were treated worse than the slaves,” which is why jazz innovator Mildred Bailey and blues originator Charley Patton (who was “an Indian and the baddest motherfucker on Earth”, according to Howlin’ Wolf) were a tad more circumspect about their backgrounds. This ethnic mixing was the result of two oppressed communities forced into a marginalized cohabitation.
The deepest irony is that colonial thinking tolerates an African origin story for the blues while devoutly denying, as Robbie Robertson puts it, “all the little black Indians runnin’ around”.
In talking about her own blacklisted years, Buffy Sainte-Marie provides a reminder that empire never sleeps, especially when you’re successful. Equally, thanks to the timing of this critical work—there’s a visit to Standing Rock in the film’s final five minutes—Rumble has that conqueror’s glow about it. Totally essential.