This year, I was lucky enough to catch almost all of the music documentaries and affiliated concerts at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Each offered fascinating insight into a particular slice of the wonderful world of music, and all are highly recommended viewing. Here are my summaries.
Family Band: The Cowsills Story
The Cowsills, made up of ultra-talented siblings and — gasp — their mother, recorded some of the most beautiful sunshine pop in the 1960s, including the hits “Hair” and “The Rain, the Park and Other Things” (think “I love the flower girl”). They played on the Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and The Johnny Cash Show, and were the inspiration for the TV series The Partridge Family.
But as told in the brilliant and heart-wrenching film Family Band: The Cowsills Story, made by Santa Barbara’s Louise Palanker, their success was stunted by an abusive, alcoholic father who kept everyone “walking on eggshells,” prevented brother Richard from being in the band (he did two tours in Vietnam instead, returning a heroin addict), mismanaged the money that the band earned, and fired Bill (Brian Wilson) from the band (and the family) after he stood up to the criticism of Bill’s mentor, Waddy Wachtel. The siblings had various struggles after the band’s demise, culminating in the death of brother Barry in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and then the death of Bill while they were grieving for Barry.
But, ultimately, it is uplifting to see the love that the siblings share after all their ups and downs.
After the film’s only screening, the Bob Cowsill Band, with special guest John Cowsill (who is now the touring drummer with The Beach Boys), played a spectacular concert at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club, including spot-on renditions of “The Rain, the Park and Other Things” and “Hair,” plus awesome covers of songs such as “Mr. Soul,” “Eight Miles High” and “Cinnamon Girl.” Wow!