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Better Together: The 5 Best Intergenerational Music Documentaries of All Time!

By Marc Freedman | Jun 10, 2024

I recently wrote about the Oscar-winning documentary, The Last Repair Shop, which got me thinking about other masterful, intergenerational, music docs. Spanning jazz, classical, country, rock, and blues, my favorites make the case for the universality of music as a way to bring older and younger people together.

Take a look at my top five, plus a bonus choice, then let me know what I missed!

1Keep on Keepin’ On introduces us to an elder Clark Terry, one of the greatest jazz musicians of the last century, and young jazz pianist Justin Kauflin. The film captures the bond that forms as the older man, losing his sight, mentors the young pianist in jazz and life, and the younger one, blind since his teenage years, helps the older artist navigate a sightless world. It’s an ode to the cross-generational collaboration that’s long been essential to jazz.


2Seymour: An Introduction follows the second act of renowned concert pianist Seymour Bernstein. Crippled by stage fright, Bernstein nonetheless reached the highest echelons of classical piano before abandoning the performance world at age 50 for a career in teaching music. The film, directed by Ethan Hawke, follows Bernstein’s work with a number of young students and shows the value of teaching, one of the most important evolutionary roles for those of us in later life.


3The Return of Tanya Tucker is about a younger musician determined to resurrect the career of an older hero. Inspired by Rick Rubin’s partnership with Johnny Cash, Brandi Carlile convinces Tanya Tucker, who reached country stardom at 13 but later faded to semi-obscurity, to return to the studio. There, they collaborate on the Grammy-winning album While I’m Livin’. Drama ensues.


Carmine Street Guitars tells the story of Rick Kelly, one of the world’s great guitar makers, who works out of a tiny shop in the West Village accompanied by his 80-something mother and a young Goth apprentice. Kelly makes his guitars out of salvaged wood from historic buildings, and his customers are a who’s-who of music. We meet these legends in the shop, but it’s the three generations working together that steal the show.


5The Torch chronicles the relationship between blues great Buddy Guy, Black and in his 80s, and Quinn Sullivan, a young, white musical prodigy from the Chicago suburbs. The film shows how music can be a bridge not just across age, but race and culture, and offers another portrait of older musicians committed to keeping American roots traditions alive through younger ones who share their elders’ love for the musical form.


Where’s the bonus selection? It’s coming tomorrow when I reveal my pick for the greatest intergenerational music documentary of all time!

Please add your comments on LinkedIn and join me on June 13 at Music Across Generations, a webinar featuring leaders and members of the Eisner Intergenerational Orchestra. Register here: