He who lives by the disco, dies by the disco…
by Martin Hafer
During the last few years, there’s been a wave of nostalgia about the music industry and several very good documentaries about this have debuted, including The Wrecking Crew, Muscle Shoals and the Oscar-winning 20 Feet From Stardom. Because of this, it’s not surprising that a film like The Record Man has created. It’s another story about a lesser-known figure from the industry, Henry Stone of TK Productions in Miami–creator of the so-called ‘Miami Sound’. Over the years, he’s produced records for a variety of stars including James Brown, KC and the Sunshine Band as well as Sam and Dave. Most of the rest of the other acts he signed are ones that most viewers today simply wouldn’t recognize–mostly comprised of soul, R&B and disco acts.
I felt while I was watching the film that his contributions to music were probably not as significant as the acts in Muscle Shoals–at least in his career up to the mid 1970s. However, during the disco days, his importance increased and according to the documentary he produced the first disco album. And, as disco flourished, so did Stone and his acts. As a result, he was, briefly, on top of the music world. How would he survive the soon to be announced ‘death of disco’? How would he survive the digital music distribution age? And, how would he deal with blindness that’s overtaken him in his twilight years?
While I didn’t get the impression that Stone was exactly a huge figure in music, the quality of the film is quite high. The story is well constructed, the interviews engaging and the story keeps your interest. Plus this incredibly youthful 90-plus seems like a nice guy and this makes his story worth telling. Mark Moormann did a very nice job with the picture and it’s not surprising that the film took the Best Documentary Feature award at the recent Orlando Film Festival–plus the fact that his career mostly occurred in Florida probably didn’t hurt! Well worth seeing.
By the way, if you enjoy this film, Moormann has made several other musical documentaries, including I See the Music: Baron Wolman–the Rolling Stone Years and For Once in My Life, a film about singers and musicians with various disabilities.