Native Americans have been a vital part of modern music history since the dawn of commercial recording in the early 20th century. The documentary Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World tells that story.
You can now watch Rumble on PBS during National Native American Heritage Month.
Directed by Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana, the 2017 documentary takes its name from “Rumble,” the 1958 instrumental by rock guitarist, singer, and songwriter Link Wray.
As Cub Coda wrote in All Music, “Link Wray invented the power chord, the major modus operandi of modern rock guitarists. Listen to any of the tracks he recorded between that landmark instrumental in 1958 through his Swan recordings in the early ’60s and you’ll hear the blueprints for heavy metal, thrash, you name it.”
If you aren’t familiar with the song, take a minute to play it now. It’s fantastic – and Coda wasn’t kidding how influential that single song was on the development of rock and roll.
“Rumble” the song is more or less the starting point for Rumble the movie, which digs deeper into the history and influence of U.S. and Canadian indigenous artists on the development of modern music. Not only does the film focus on Wray and other rock artists, it also turns attention to artists in other genres and across many decades – jazz vocalist Mildred Bailey, folksinger Buffy Sainte-Marie, and Delta blues pioneer Charley Patton.
Other musicians in the film include Jimi Hendrix, Jesse Ed Davis, Robbie Robertson, Redbone, Randy Castillo, and Taboo. The music of Cherokee/Irish folksinger Karen Dalton is also featured during the credits.
Rumble screens on PBS all this month as part of the Independent Lens series.