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8 Music Documentaries to Stream This Summer

There’s a bumper crop of docs starring Donna Summer, TLC, Wham! and more


spinner image George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley smiling together as members of Wham; Donna Summer holding a microphone while performing
(Left to right) George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley of Wham!; Donna Summer
Netflix; HBO

If you count yourself a music lover, but your concert-festival-going days are long behind you, you’re in luck: This summer will see the release of a slew of new streaming music documentaries and concert films that bring the thrill of live performance and the excitement of pop music history right into your living room. Best of all, there’s something to stream no matter your favorite genre, from pop (Wham!) to R&B (TLC Forever), disco (Love to Love You, Donna Summer) to country (CMA Fest: 50 Years of Fan Fair) and everything in between.

Wham!

Best known for attention-grabbing documentaries like Tiger King and 100 Foot Wave, Chris Smith directs this intimate look at the world-conquering pop power duo, made up of the late legend George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, 60. Using archival footage and never-before-seen interviews, the documentary dives into their four short years of superstardom (1982 to 1986), during which they sold more than 30 million records and landed seven singles in the Billboard top 10. “[Smith] has come as close as anyone might to making tangible that which is the essence of Wham! and has done so with veracity and affection,” Ridgeley recently told Rolling Stone.

Watch it: Wham! on Netflix (out July 5)

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TLC Forever

The best-selling American girl group since the Supremes, TLC got the fictionalized biopic treatment with 2013’s CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story. Now, a decade later, the two surviving members — Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, 53, and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, 52 — are telling their own story in a new documentary that premiered on Lifetime earlier this month. With interviews from acclaimed peers like Questlove (52) and Missy Elliott (51), the film charts the Grammy-winning trio’s rise in the early ’90s, the tragic death of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and preparations for their new summer tour.

Watch it: TLC Forever on Lifetime

AARP Members Only Access: 10 Quick Questions for TLC’s Chilli and T-Boz

spinner image singer songwriter prince on his purple rain tour
Photo by: Ebet Roberts/Getty Images

Prince: The Final Secret

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer was practically worshipped for his songwriting, his wide vocal range, his guitar-shredding skills, his personal style and his sex appeal. But this new Reelz doc makes the case that Prince should be revered for another, lesser-known reason, too — his extensive philanthropy. Until the end of his life, the Purple One kept quiet about his do-gooding side, which included founding the Love 4 One Another charity, supporting community organizations and giving money to individuals in need without ever looking for fanfare or recognition.

Watch it: Prince: The Final Secret on Peacock, Reelz

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Love to Love You, Donna Summer

Released in May, this HBO documentary tells the story of the groundbreaking Queen of Disco and includes extensive use of self-recorded home videos, which offer a behind-the-curtain peek of the notoriously private singer. Summer had a tough upbringing, so be warned that the subject matters explored get rather dark — including sexual abuse, domestic violence and attempted suicide — but they’re handled sensitively by the directors, Oscar and Emmy winner Roger Ross Williams and Summer’s daughter, Brooklyn Sudano, who brings a warmth and intimacy as an on-screen presence throughout the film.

Watch it: Love to Love You, Donna Summer on Max

Duran Duran: A Hollywood High

Making its streaming debut on Paramount+ this month, this docu-concert film sees the British new wave band playing a rooftop concert atop the Aster Hotel in Los Angeles, with the Capitol Records building (their original label) in the background. Interspersed between the 12-song set list — which includes classics like “A View to a Kill” and “Hungry Like the Wolf” — are archival clips and new interviews, in which the band members discuss everything from their musical inspirations and decades-long love affair with L.A. to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Watch it: Duran Duran: A Hollywood High on Paramount+ (out June 21)

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Anthem

Did you know that, even though it’s meant to evoke independence and patriotism, “The Star-Spangled Banner” ironically borrows its entire melody from an 18th-century British tune? In this thought-provoking documentary, composer Kris Bowers and Grammy-winning producer DJ Dahi imagine what our national anthem might sound like if it were actually based on American sounds. In their quest to dig deep into what makes American music so unique, they travel across the country, chatting with musicians in places like Detroit, Nashville, New Orleans and Clarksdale, Mississippi, about history and national identity, ultimately recording a new anthem that sounds like America today.

Watch it: Anthem on Hulu (out June 28)

Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music

In Brooklyn in 2016, the future MacArthur Genius Grant–winning performance artist Taylor Mac staged one of the most impressive, immersive theatrical feats in recent memory: Mac performed for 24 hours straight, dedicating one hour to each of the 24 decades that America has existed since 1776, performing songs like “Yankee Doodle” and “Born to Run” in elaborate, avant-garde costumes. If you weren’t one of the lucky few who got to see the show in person, you can now tune into a much-condensed, 106-minute version, which premiered to raves at this year’s Tribeca Festival.

Watch it: Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music on Max (out June 27)

CMA Fest: 50 Years of Fan Fair

Beginning in 1972 as the 5,000-attendee Fan Fair at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium, CMA Fest has grown to gargantuan proportions in its first half-century of existence: Today, more than 90,000 country music lovers flood downtown Nashville for each of the festival’s four days. This 75-minute documentary is a who’s who of country legends, featuring exclusive interviews with the likes of Dolly Parton (77), Wynonna Judd (59), Vince Gill (66), Keith Urban (55), Carrie Underwood, Trisha Yearwood (58) and many more.

Watch it: CMA Fest: 50 Years of Fan Fair on Hulu

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