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Off the Charts: The Song-Poem Story (2003)

Like a warped fun-house mirror, the song-poem industry has run parallel to the mainstream music business for close to a century; it's estimated that over 200,000 song-poems have been ... See full summary »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Tom Ardolino ... Himself
Sonny Cash ... Himself
Del Casher ... Himself
Jo Comberiate ... Herself
Ellery Eskelin ... Himself
Gary Forney ... Himself
David Fox ... Himself
Van Garner ... Himself
Will Gentry ... Himself
Art Kaufman ... Himself
John Lewis ... Himself
Gene Merlino ... Himself
Jean-Paul Monsche ... Himself
Nilson V. Ortiz ... Himself
Caglar Juan Singletary
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Storyline

Like a warped fun-house mirror, the song-poem industry has run parallel to the mainstream music business for close to a century; it's estimated that over 200,000 song-poems have been recorded since 1900. The genre's durability can be traced to three of our deepest American desires - to be in show business, to get rich quick, and to share and express our deepest feelings. We meet several of the "songwriters" - from an elderly woman to a young African-American man to a small-town Iowan with big-time dreams - each of whom has been in the "business" for awhile, churning out odd compositions that cover the waterfront of American obsessions, from Jesus to genitalia, from politics to Elvis. We also meet the producers (often known as song-sharks) who hold out the tantalizing promise of fame to their eager customers, and the has-been musicians who sit in studios, day after day and year after year, interpreting some of the weirdest lyrics ever written. Through fellow musicians and his son, ... Written by Anonymous

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Genres:

Documentary

Certificate:

R
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Details

Official Sites:

PBS [United States]

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Release Date:

11 February 2003 (USA)  »

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Budget:

$150,000 (estimated)
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1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Soundtracks

Cloud Nine
John Kelly IV
Music by Rodd Keith
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User Reviews

 
Probably the best movie you've never seen
18 February 2005 | by See all my reviews

I checked this out from the public library, because the cover looked vaguely interesting and there was basically no risk, but for some lost time. And, like someone discovering a song-poem collection in a used-LP bin, I was amazed and amused by this great (and fortunately brief) little film. It's about these people who send in poems or lyrics to a company, which promises to make a song from those words, then asks them to pay the recording cost -- which is how they make money. But the scheme is beside the point. Instead the movie focuses on some of the "poets" who write tunes, almost always with a straight face, with titles like "Non-Violent Tae-Kwon-Do Troopers" and "I Am a Ginseng Digger." The movie also features some of the performers, composers, and producers of these songs (sometimes separate, often not), and even has time for a brief rise-and-fall story regarding one artist that the song-poem cultists and performers all seem to consider a squandered semi-genius. It's a crazy-quilt portrait of low-impact American ambition and creative expression from Joe Public (no, not the early 90s group). A real freakin gem.


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